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Anchia and Johnson: A challenge to build on solar idea

Great joint op-ed by our friend McCall Johnson over at Environment Texas and State Rep. Rafael Anchia, winner of Public Citizen’s Legislator of the Year award.  Following on the heels of TXU’s announcement last week that it will offer customers an affordable solar leasing program, the gist of it is that we can’t let the momentum for solar wane whenever the program’s money runs out.  Sounds like Rep. Anchia may have some ideas for a legislative fix, check it out…

Anchia and Johnson: A challenge to build on solar idea

We were thrilled by TXU’s announcement last week that it will team with SolarCity to provide an option for residents wanting to install rooftop solar panels. The $35-per-month leasing program provides an innovative way to offset the high upfront cost of solar, which is the largest barrier to residents powering their homes with solar and selling electricity back to their retail electric provider.

But it’s difficult for other providers to follow this example because they don’t have the cash reserves for such subsidies. The TXU program relies on an Oncor rebate program created as part of the negotiated 2007 buyout of TXU by Energy Future Holdings.

The program will not be sustainable once the Oncor funding is exhausted. So Texas should create a statewide incentive for distributed renewable energy within its existing renewable energy program.

Since the TXU/SolarCity announcement, more than 2,000 Texans have called to ask for more details. Clearly, demand exists for solar in Texas.

Our state has the most solar radiation in the country, we are home to the world’s largest supplier of solar-grade silicon, and we are great innovators in the high-tech industry. Texas would be a natural home for the nation’s solar industry.

But we need leadership to get us there. By providing incentives to help Texans put solar panels on the roofs of homes and businesses and by building large-scale solar farms, we can clean the air, create good manufacturing jobs and become a national leader in solar power.

The best way for Texas to ensure that this happens is by committing to a 10-year market development program that includes financial incentives and new construction design policies. With even a modest investment, we can help create economies of scale to make solar affordable for everyone and create a major economic engine for the state.

As a first step, the Public Utility Commission should use its authority to implement a 500-megawatt “non-wind” 2015 goal in our state renewable energy law and include a 100-megawatt program for distributed renewable energy generation.

Additionally, we should work with all stakeholders to ensure that retail electric providers offer fair buyback rates to electric customers who produce a surplus of electricity and are able to put electricity back on the grid. These policies would be an important down payment for solar that we can improve on in the 82nd Legislature as we look ahead to 2020 and beyond.

According to a survey done by the governor’s own pollster, “There is a statewide consensus to ‘require’ electric companies to provide a certain percentage of their product from renewable sources such as wind and solar.

Support crossed party, racial and gender lines — 86 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Hispanics, 84 percent of females under the age of 55 and 61 percent of males over the age of 55.”

Texas should adopt a solar program and make sure we don’t miss out on what is sure to become a major economic driver for the 21st century.

State Rep. Rafael Anchia represents House District 103 in Dallas, Irving, Carrollton and Farmers Branch; his e-mail address is [email protected] McCall Johnson is the clean energy advocate for Environment Texas; her e-mail address is [email protected]

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.