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Solar Industry Workers Call on Lawmakers to Protect Solar Energy Jobs

Following up on Susan’s post yesterday and Ben Higgins’ exclusive guest post earlier today on this matter, here’s another excellent guest post from solar industry workers that I received via email yesterday from someone at the Protect Net Metering coalition. This post tackles the jobs side of things — sort of an important topic these days. Enjoy!

Solar Industry Workers Tell Lawmakers: Protect Policies that Create Jobs

Supporters Send 60,000 E-mails Urging PUC to Expand Solar Credit Program

Solar industry workers and officials converged on the State Capitol Wednesday to implore lawmakers and regulators to protect California’s job-creating solar economy by standing up to utility-driven attacks on the state’s successful net metering policy.

Northern California employees whose jobs depend on the fast-growing clean energy sector said policies like net metering that promote solar energy help provide jobs and energy bill savings to those who need it most, including thousands of Sacramento-area and Northern California low and middle income homeowners and small businesses. Solar leaders warned that legislation undermining solar will harm an industry that is generating jobs at a rate 680 percent faster than the overall economy. More than 35,000 Californians are employed in California’s solar industry at more than 3,500 solar companies.

“California’s solar industry is one of the few bright spots amidst all of the gloomy economic news in our state. The clean energy industry is supplying our state with more than 35,000 high-paying jobs and positioning us at the front of the line for private investment dollars,” said David Hochschild, Vice President, External Relations for Solaria, and Co-Founder of the Vote Solar Initiative. “At least $10 billion in private investment has helped grow the clean energy industry into one of the few thriving areas in our state’s economy, with California’s solar market growing at a pace of up to 40 percent annually.”

Much like cell-phone rollover minutes, net metering gives solar customers fair credit on their utility bills for the excess electricity they send back to the grid. A recent poll conducted for Vote Solar shows that more than 86 percent of California voters support making net metering more widely available to residential customers, schools, and businesses.

There is also strong opposition to a “solar tax” on net metered customers, which the PUC rejected earlier this year when San Diego Gas & Electric proposed such a fee for its solar users. Two-thirds (67 percent) opposed the solar tax.

At the epicenter of the debate is an attempt to block state regulators from allowing more participation in the state’s net metering program. Renewable energy advocates are opposing amendments to utility-backed legislation being advanced by Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee Chairman Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood) that will undermine the growth of clean energy in the state.

Solar officials warned that Bradford’s legislation (AB 2514) is inconsistent with the original legislation setting up the “net metering” policy. The Bradford bill would stop the Public Utilities Commission from moving forward as expected next week to make solar more affordable to low and middle-income homeowners, school districts, and businesses.

So far, net metering supporters have flooded the PUC with an astonishing 60,000 emails urging them to stand up to utility-driven efforts to block the action.

Solar power is flourishing in the Sacramento region, and has become widely available to a changing demographic including businesses, schools, farms, retailers, public agencies and low- and middle-class homeowners. Sacramento ranks seventh in the state for solar generation, with 16 megawatts of solar capacity from 1,119 installations, according to the “2012 California Green Innovation Index” from the nonpartisan group Next 10. Solar is one of the state’s fastest growing sectors, with employment in the solar sector climbing 166 percent between 1995 and 2010, according to the index.

“I am so proud to be working where I am today, in an industry that is truly the future of our clean energy economy,” said Ana Nunez, Compensation and Benefits Manager for Sungevity’s 248 employees. “I urge our state’s leaders to ensure that the future of solar remains just as bright by enacting policies that help the industry grow even further, so that even more people have the opportunities that I have had.”

Image: screenshot of Protect Net Metering website

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Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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