Why Mayors Matter When it Comes to Solar

Solar power has experienced an explosion of growth over the past few years. New investments have made solar technologies more efficient, affordable, and have helped to spread solar’s populatiry throughout the country. Last year, rooftop solar set new records, however, the progress hasn’t been linear—and different cities, regions and states have pursued solar in many different ways.

Georgia and California mark perhaps some of the challenges and opportunities that many communities face.

In California, residents can buy or lease solar panels and tap into the operating utility in their community. During the day, when the panels are generating electricity, excess energy can be sold back to the utility. At night, residents can simply buy what they need from the utility until the panels begin generating again. This system allows residents to slash their utility bill, however, utilities are fighting back—threatening to charge solar users fees for tapping into the grid. This is the case in California, where utilities claim that greater access to solar has decreased revenue and made forecasting energy demands more complex.

However, utilities in other parts of the country have pursued a very different approach. In Georgia, utilities have embraced solar. Recognizing the changing market and the need to decentralize generation, utilities have made efforts to help residents invest in solar—even sending representatives to meet with home-owners to advise them on the possibilities of investing in solar.

The differing approaches in California and Georgia illustrate the need for active community and municipal climate leadership. Mayors and elected officials must be aware, and active in pushing utilities and local governments to support investments in renewable infrastructure. These are good investments for communities—paying off by creating clean energy and a healthier environment for families, decreasing utility bills for residents, and boosting local economies by supporting well-paying, stable jobs in the solar industry. Find out how to communicate the benefits of solar, and join with other climate leaders at Path to Positive Communities.

Like Night And Day: How Two States’ Utilities Approach Solar

By Lauren Sommer & Molly Samuel | National Public Radio | January 1, 2016

This was a record-breaking year for rooftop solar power. It’s booming across the country. But as more homeowners make their own power, electric utilities are making less money, and that’s shaking up their business model.

Utilities in two states — California and Georgia — are handling the growth of solar in dramatically different ways.

Matt Brown recently got solar panels on his Oakland, Calif., home, but it’s dark out right now — his panels aren’t working. So Brown’s appliances are running on electricity he’s buying from his utility, Pacific Gas & Electric.

So even with solar panels, you might think his utility bill is pretty high.

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