Sunday, April 26, 2009

Texas Senate approves solar energy incentive program

By Terrence Stutz, The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN: Legislation that would create a $100 million-a-year state program to encourage use of solar energy and require homebuilders in new subdivisions to offer solar energy to home buyers won approval from the Senate on Tuesday.

The measure, which would also set up a loan program for public schools to install solar systems, would be funded through a fee on all energy bills in the state. Homeowners would pay a fee of 20 cents a month, while large businesses would pay $20 a month.

"We take pride in the fact that Texas is recognized as the national leader in renewable energy, especially wind generation," said Sen. Troy Frasier, R-Horseshoe Bay, author of the bill.

"This legislation allows our state to become more energy dependent and meet our renewable energy goals through the installation of solar generation."

Senators voted 26-4 to approve the measure, which now goes to the House.

Fraser said the $100 million-a-year incentive program, which would operate for at least five years, would provide a "jump start" for the use of solar energy in homes and businesses.

The Public Utility Commission will decide how to distribute the incentive money, which will be used to pay for up to one-third the cost of installation of solar panels and related technologies.

When combined with existing federal tax credits of up to 30 percent, the legislation would make solar energy more feasible for thousands of Texas families, according to experts.

"This bill would put Texas on the map when it comes to solar power," said Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger. "We have the sun, we have the technological know-how. Now we'll have a market that that can make Texas a world leader in solar power."

Besides requiring that home buyers in new subdivisions be offered the option of solar energy, the bill also would prohibit homeowners associations from having policies that ban the installation of solar panels on residences.

The bill also would provide rebates for solar products manufactured in Texas and establish net metering policies that require customers to receive real-time market price for energy that is exported from them by a retail electric provider.

Metzger said with Texas' tremendous amount of sunlight, the state could become a world solar leader, creating thousands of manufacturing, engineering and installation jobs, and attracting billions of dollars of investment to the state.

"Texas can have a great deal of control over how rapidly solar power becomes cost competitive," he said. "By getting in on the ground floor of this new market, Texas can also benefit economically."

Source: Dallas Morning News

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