Solar Power Under Attack in California

| March 14, 2003

At the moment of crisis, will we affirm our commitment to developing sources of renewable energy, or will our resolution waver? Peter Asmus asks Californians this question in a recent article in the environmental Webzine Faultline. According to Asmus, the future viability of solar power in California may be jeopardized by a new proposal before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to implement a ?solar tax.? What remains to be seen is what Californians will do to avert this threat to its favored source of renewable energy.

At issue are the multi-million dollar contracts for fossil fuel purchased by the state of California during its energy crisis in 2001. Since utility customers with solar panels on their homes can sell their excess power back to the grid, the CPUC implies, they unfairly shift the burden of paying off the ?state investment? in fossil fuels to customers who rely on traditional sources of energy. The so-called solar tax, they argue, would shift some of this burden to those using solar power.

Asmus argues that the tax will increase the cost of using solar energy, ?effectively [wiping] out a 40 percent subsidy granted under existing state programs.? The CPUC?s proposal will thus ?pull the rug out from under solar power, the one electricity source that can bring ?power to the people? while helping the economy and the environment.?

Such effects could indeed prove disastrous for a state that has not only committed itself to the development of renewable energy sources, but has also seen ?installations of this clean non-polluting energy source [solar power] increase by 1,000 percent.?
?Amelia Bauerly

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