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August 23, 2012

As Solar Reaches New Peaks in California, Utilities Fight Progress

SolarThis week, California set a new solar record. During the afternoon on Tuesday, 1,029 megawatts of clean, cost-effective solar power pumped through the California grid -- enough to power around 150,000 homes. Week by week, the record keeps inching upwards as more solar comes on line and the summer moves along.

It's been a brutally hot summer across California, and as Californians seek relief by cranking up the A/C, big utilities like Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric are scrambling to keep the lights on. By providing power during peak demand, solar energy has played a crucial role in keeping the power on and it’s helping Californians manage their utility bill when electric rates are at their most extreme.

With local clean energy's benefits on clear display this summer, you would think the utilities in California would be scrambling to expand solar programs. You'd be wrong. Right now, they're walking the halls in Sacramento urging legislators to oppose two innovative measures that would bring more rooftop solar to Californians.

Clean energy advocates are urging legislators to pass a slate of clean energy bills -- SB 843, SB 1222, and AB 1990 -- that are scheduled for a final vote in the California legislature in the coming week. The bills are designed to increase access to local clean energy for working families by creating an innovative program for renters, lowering solar permitting fees, and ensuring that a portion of the rooftop solar installed in the state happens in low income communities.

Should they pass, the bills would bring California utilities closer to meet Governor Jerry Brown's clean energy goals of reaching 12,000 megawatts of Renewable Distributed Generation (RDG) by 2020, while bringing much needed jobs and savings to Californians.

"Together, this slate of clean energy bills is a critical step towards ensuring that every Californian has access to local clean energy," says Jim Metropulos, Senior Advocate with the Sierra Club California. "These new pieces of legislation will not only make it easier for more families to enjoy the savings in their electricity bills that come from the use of clean energy like rooftop solar, but they will also generate tens of thousands jobs for our local economy."

So, why would private utilities oppose stand in the way of jobs, savings, and improved grid security? It's pretty straightforward: as more and more of their customers seek out solar, private utilities are forced to compete for customers. Due to better financing tools and falling costs, Californian families now have access to cheaper, cleaner, safer power. After 100 years of enjoying a monopoly where utilities are guaranteed profits and no competition, Californians finally have better options - and you can imagine how this is going over in the corporate boardrooms of the big utilities.

Sierra Club's My Generation Campaign is a statewide effort to ensure that every Californian is able to enjoy the access and benefits that come from the use affordable, local clean renewable sources of energy. While thousands in our state are already reaping the benefits of solar, wind, and energy efficiency, there are still too many needless barriers that prevent homeowners and renters from taking part in California's fast-growing clean energy economy.

The slate of bills that the California legislature will consider for a final vote before the session ends on August 31st represents a key milestone in the ongoing efforts of the My Generation campaign to make sure that all Californians are able to enjoy the benefits of producing their own clean energy locally and in the process help reduce our overall reliance on dangerous fossil fuels.

To learn about how you can take action to support the My Generation Campaign, visit www.SierraClub.org/MyGeneration

-- Evan Gillespie, My Generation Campaign

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