California hits one million solar roofs milestone

This year, the one millionth solar roof system was installed in California. That’s a fifty-fold increase since 2006. It’s a huge milestone, and worth celebrating because solar has been great for the people of California.

Leadership and policy got us to 1 million

We got this far because of some good decisions state leaders made in 2006. Back then, only 20,000 solar installations existed in the entire state. Solar was a great idea, but still too expensive for most people.

Then-Gov. Schwarzenegger and some forward-thinking state lawmakers passed the Million Solar Roofs Initiative (SB 1-Murray). That law set a goal of building a million solar energy systems on homes, schools, farms and businesses throughout the state. It also created a rebate for installing solar.

Combined with a federal tax credit and the expansion of net metering, the upfront cost of solar dropped.

This prompted many people to choose solar, causing the market price of solar to drop. Which prompted even more people to choose solar. A virtuous circle had begun.

By the time the rebate ended in 2016 as planned, the price of solar panels had plummeted from $140/watt to $.40/watt. Now, over 100,000 people are signing up for solar each year.

The cost of installing solar has dropped so much that nearly half of all new solar is going up in neighborhoods at or below the median household income, according to the CA Solar & Storage Association.

Rooftop solar benefits all Californians

Solar is saving you money. It’s also saving all ratepayers money by reducing the burden on the electricity grid. For example:

1) Reduced energy costs for all ratepayers. Rooftop solar reduces the number of people using the grid, lessening the need for expensive infrastructure investments.

For example, state officials in charge of the electricity grid modified or canceled $2.6 billion in transmission projects in 2018, citing both rooftop solar and energy efficiency as the reason.

Rooftop solar also reduces the need to invest in expensive new power plants and other energy sources, and is cheaper to transport than far-away utility energy.

2) Avoided power outages. Making and storing energy on one’s property is the best way to keep the lights on when the central grid goes down.

With more investments in a smarter grid, rooftop solar and storage can help keep an entire community’s lights on in an emergency.

This is especially important for disabled and medically vulnerable Californians, who currently have few options when the power goes out.

3) A cleaner environment. California’s solar users have produced enough energy to help the state avoid building the equivalent of six natural gas power plants. Your solar has also reduced smog pollution – the equivalent of 3.8 million cars.

Read more: Eight ways your solar benefits everyone

It’s time for a new vision: 5 Million Solar Roofs

So what’s next? It took 13 years for California to add a million solar roofs. Imagine if we got to five million in the next ten years! And imagine if most of those systems also have battery storage!

Five million solar roofs would allow even more Californians from all walks of life to put money back in their pockets, reduce the burden on the grid and keep their power on in emergencies.

Clear the obstacles to solar!

Solar is a lot cheaper now than in 2006. But as most solar users are aware, utilities are attacking solar with a vengeance, fearing an end to their monopoly. The utilities’ attacks on solar make it harder and more expensive for people to choose solar.

So if state leaders are serious about empowering five million Californians to make their own energy on their property, they’re going to need to stop the attacks on solar.

Here’s three things they can do:

1) Pass a Solar Bill of Rights that:

 – Protects our right to both make solar energy on one’s property and reduce the electricity purchased from the utility.

– Prohibits surprise fees that discriminate against solar users and discourage solar adoptions.

– Reduces red tape that delays solar installations and drives up the cost.

2) Treat solar and storage users like the amazing community assets that they are: protect and expand Net Metering. That’s the credit you get for the extra solar energy you share with the grid. Utility lobbyists have net metering in their sights, and we’re going to have to fight hard to keep it.

It’s silly that we’re fighting to protect net metering. Your extra solar energy is really valuable, and often helps the utility avoid having to build, buy and pipe in energy from far away.

As more people install battery storage, the extra energy becomes even more valuable. That’s because stored energy can be used any time of day, not just when the sun is shining, when the community needs it the most.

3) Make the battery storage rebate as un-bureaucratic as possible. State lawmakers extended the rebate for battery storage for a few more years. This should work the same way the original solar rebate program did, and bring storage prices down. But the program is notorious for its opaque red tape, slow reimbursements and other issues.

Want to help push your lawmakers to embrace a vision of five million solar rooftops? Sign up to educate your local lawmakers about solar!