Community Solar Bill Is Down To The Wire In California


Will community solar become a statewide reality in California? S.B.843, which would establish a framework for shared community solar installations, has experienced some setbacks this week and may not be approved by the end of California's legislative session today.

The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, would allow customers in Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric's service territories to participate in community solar programs. The programs could double the amount of rooftop solar installed in California, according to Vote Solar.

Despite far-reaching support from both within the solar sector and among schools and local governments, the legislation failed to receive enough votes yesterday to advance to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk. A series of new amendments may have led to the holdup.

Late yesterday, after several last-minute amendments were made, the bill was sent back to the Assembly's Utility & Commerce (U&C) committee for reconsideration, says Ben Higgins, director of government affairs at Mainstream Energy Corp.

Following the committee's hearing, which Higgins describes as lively, a final vote took place among the members in attendance. The result was three votes in favor and four opposed.

‘Virtually all the members voting 'no' expressed reluctance to vote for a bill which had been so heavily amended again,’ Higgins notes.

Now, with the last day of the session today, it is uncertain whether the legislation will make it through to the finish line in time. Higgins is doubtful, as three separate approvals – U&C approval, Assembly floor vote and Senate concurrence – are needed in order for S.B.843 to advance.

Tom Price, director of policy and market strategies at CleanPath Ventures, maintains that the bill still has a chance. A senior state senator has noted that the bill has top priority, he says.

According to Price, because yesterday's U&C hearing was conducted last-minute, some vital information regarding the bill was not conveyed to committee members, and many sat out the vote. With 15 members on the committee, only seven voted.

Today's voting outcome will be different, he predicts. Although no U&C committee hearing is currently listed on the legislature's schedule, he remains confident a last-minute push will enable the bill to be discussed – and approved.

Watch and follow us on Twitter at @SolarIndustry for the latest on this evolving story.

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