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Legislation Could Boost Solar in California

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A bill in the California state senate would allow people to who own solar-powered homes and businesses to sell excess power back to utilities. KPBS Environment Reporter Ed Joyce tells us under current law utilities now get that power for free.

A bill in the California state senate would allow people to who own solar-powered homes and businesses to sell excess power back to utilities. KPBS Environment Reporter Ed Joyce tells us under current law utilities now get that power for free.

Under current law consumers with solar panels can reduce their utility bill to $0 through what is called "net metering."

If the consumer generates a surplus amount of power at the end of the year that electricity goes to the utility for free.

Bernadette Del Chiaro with Environment California says that discourages conservation and energy efficiency.

"We found a lot of people that own solar systems that are generating this surplus on an annual basis," Del Chiaro says. "They're doing things like putting up more Christmas lights in the winter time or installing electric hot tubs, something that eats up the surplus electrons as opposed to feeding it back into the grid."

Under the bill, utilities buying the surplus power would be able to count that electricity toward their renewable energy goals.

California's renewable standard requires investor-owned utilities to get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources such as solar and wind by the end of next year.

Del Chiaro says Southern California Edison supports the solar legislation but San Diego Gas and Electric hasn't taken a stance on the bill.

California is currently considering two bills that would increase the state's renewable energy standard from 20 percent by 2010 to 33 percent by 2020.

Congress is considering a similar renewable requirement for the nation's utilities.

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