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California PUC Proposes Nation's Biggest Solar Program -- 3,000 MW of Solar Power by 2016

San Francisco - The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) today unveiled its California Solar Initiative, proposing to install 3,000 MW of solar on California homes, businesses, farms, schools and public facilities. The program, if adopted in mid-January by the five-member Public Utilities Commission, will be the nation's largest solar power investment, designed to make solar power mainstream and affordable. It will add clean energy to the state's peak demand resources, reduce risk by diversifying the state's energy portfolio, and establish a world-class solar market in California.

"This is the kind of long-term, visionary policy that allows the US solar industry to invest in technological innovation and scale up manufacturing," said Rhone Resch, president of the national Solar Energy Industries Association. "With this investment, California will make solar power a major resource for our energy future. We applaud the CPUC and the California Energy Commission for proposing a monumental decision that will build the nation's largest solar market and reduce costs."

The proposed California Solar Initiative will create 11 years of funding. The PUC would provide $2.8 billion in customer incentives for solar projects on existing residential buildings, as well as all public buildings, industrial facilities, businesses, and agricultural facilities. The CEC program would provide $400 million in incentives for new homes, specifically targeting collaborations with the builder / developer community. Incentives would be gradually reduced over time and phased out by 2016 under the PUC proposal.

"A long-term program with secure funding is key to bringing down solar costs and planning responsibly for California's energy future," said Barry Cinnamon, president of the California Solar Energy Industries Association and CEO of Akeena Solar. "From an industry perspective, this program will eliminate the stop-start incentive cycle, and create market conditions that allow solar companies to make new long-term investments that will bring solar to the public."

Solar technologies eligible to participate in the program would include photovoltaics, concentrating solar power, and solar water heating. All projects would have to be customer-sited and between one kilowatt and one megawatt in size. The money would come from existing funds already earmarked for solar power and a de minimis additional surcharge on monthly electric bills over eleven years. According to a staff report prepared by the PUC last summer, this $3.2 billion investment in solar could save California ratepayers an estimated $9 billion.

"Given this winter's high energy bills and the urgent need to reduce the state's reliance on imported fossil fuels, this landmark solar initiative is exactly what California's economy and environment need," said Bernadette Del Chiaro of Environment California. "Clean energy solutions, like this forward-thinking solar proposal, are what the majority of California voters are demanding."

"The public pressure to implement this program has been nothing less than inspiring," added David Hochschild of the Vote Solar Initiative. "Over the last two months, 43,000 people wrote to the Public Utilities Commissioners to ask them to pass this program - more public comment than the PUC has received on any issue they have ever considered, including the 2001 energy crisis. It shows that public support for solar and renewables has reached a new threshold."

The solar proposal is expected to be voted on by the five-member PUC in mid-January, after a 30-day public comment period initiated today. If adopted, the program is likely to go into effect by the start of 2007. In the meantime, this Thursday, December 15th, the PUC is expected to vote on the first stage of the California Solar Initiative, an interim program to make additional funds available for 2005 and 2006 solar projects to ensure uninterrupted market growth during the transition to the long-term program. The first stage of funding is expected to add $300 million in customer incentives. In addition, $58 million remains available for homeowners and small businesses to invest in solar panels via the California Energy Commission's rebate program in 2006.

SEIA is the national trade association of solar energy manufacturers, dealers, distributors, contractors, installers, architects, consultants and marketers. Established in 1975, SEIA works to expand the use of solar technologies in the global marketplace.
A copy of the PUC presentation outlining the California Solar Initiative can be found at http://www.seia.org

Other organizations contributing to this release include:

California Solar Energy Industries Association (www.calseia.org)
Environment California (www.environmentcalifornia.org)
The Vote Solar Initiative (www.votesolar.org)
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