Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Texas-Sized Solar Initiative

The Texas State Senate has passed a bill that would mandate a 60% increase in renewable energy (ex-wind) and establish a $500 million/5 year rebate program for solar installation in the state. Whether this will give our friends in Sacramento any new ideas, remains to be seen, but a closer look at the Texas initiative is probably worth a minute of your time.

The "$500 million rebate" program will be financed by electric bill fees-- presumably on all ratepyers-- which essentially makes this a "tax" on anyone who doesn't take the bait and install solar.

The basic idea is to generate solar energy that can be sold back to utilities, but at what rate remains a mystery.

According to Russell Gold in the Wall Street Journal:

"Jim Marston, head of the Texas chapter of Environmental Defense, said he expects the rebates would bring Texas about 250 to 500 megawatts of solar-power generation, which now costs more than other electricity sources but is being buoyed by government support and falling manufacturing costs. That is roughly equivalent to the output from a natural-gas power plant."


"One potential drawback is the price at which homeowners would be able sell their excess solar power to utilities -- an important factor in calculating how long it takes to recover the cost of installing solar panels. The bill requires that utilities purchase surpluses at a "fair market price," which can be 20% less than the going rate for retail electricity."

A de facto tax to spur green energy that appears to be light on details certainly sounds like somethng California could enthusiastically get behind...

Texas Moves to Foster Solar Power [Wall Street Journal]