Solar subsidies could reach 70 percent

Apr 22 - McClatchy-Tribune
> Regional News - Timm Herdt Ventura County Star, Calif.
> Californians could receive government subsidies for more than 70
> percent of the cost of installing solar energy panels on their homes,
> under a bill by Sen. Tony Strickland that advanced today in the
> Legislature.
> Strickland, a conservative Republican who made the promotion of
> alternative energy a centerpiece of his election campaign last fall,
> is proposing the state provide tax credits to individuals to cover 30
> percent of the cost of installing solar panels or other renewable
> energy devices on their properties.
> The proposed new state income tax credits would be in addition to
> a 30 percent federal tax credit and state solar energy rebates of 10
> percent to
> 15 percent that are funded by electricity ratepayers.
> The measure was approved by the Senate Energy, Utilities and
> Communications Committee without a dissenting vote. Some members
> expressed concerns about what the ultimate cost to the state budget
> would be, whether there should be a limit on government subsidies, and
> whether low- income ratepayers would in effect be subsidizing free
> electricity for upper- income homeowners who can afford the upfront
> costs for solar installations.
> Strickland, R-Moorpark, said he believes the incentives proposed
> in SB
> 463 are especially important in a down economy because they will spur
> job-creating activity in building and installing the devices,
> providing a boost to the economy while also reducing reliance on
> petroleum fuels and the emissions of greenhouse gases.
> Committee Chairman Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, said he is
> anxious to see an analysis of what it would cost the state general
> fund to provide such subsidies and wondered whether there should be a
> limit. "How much more should we be putting out with incentives?" he
> asked.
> Lenny Goldberg, executive director of the California Tax Reform
> Association, testified that the state has never before funded energy-
> saving incentives out of the general fund -- the same pool of money
> that is used to pay for schools, healthcare, prisons, public
> universities and other state services.
> "Ratepayers have always paid for it," he said.
> Goldberg suggested Strickland keep an eye on a bill by Ventura
> County's other state senator, Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, that seeks
> to allocate any revenues generated from the implementation of
> California's landmark global warming law, such as money that might be
> raised from auctioning off carbon credits.
> Pavley's bill, SB 31, is designed to ensure that any such
> revenues be used to fund programs that promote the reduction of
> greenhouse gases.
> Sen. Rod Wright, D-Los Angeles, said there is a danger the
> proposed subsidies would shift the costs of paying for the state's
> electrical system.
> "I don't have anyone in Compton putting a solar panel on their
> roof,"
> he said. "You end up having someone in Compton subsidizing solar
> panels in Beverly Hills."
> Strickland said he is willing to consider alternative ways to
> fund the proposed credits, but said they would be worth the money even
> if comes out of general state tax coffers at a time when lawmakers
> have been forced to cut spending on other state programs.
> "A budget is a statement of priorities," he said. "I happen to
> believe that renewable energy ought to be a priority."
> Environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, have
> questioned the strength of Strickland's commitment to alternative
> energy, noting that earlier this year he did not vote for a bill that
> would require utility companies to purchase a third of the electrical
> power they provide to customers from alternative energy sources by
> 2020.
> Strickland said at the time he withheld his support because
> concerns raised by publicly owned utilities had not yet been
> addressed.