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How to Go Solar Soon

Edison-Sponsored Information Session Provides Homeowners with Estimates of Subsidies and Costs


Santa Barbarans are interested in going solar, and Edison is interested in lighting the way.

On Wednesday evening, April 8, more than 150 residents sat in on a homeowner solar information session hosted by Southern California Edison (SCE) and the California Solar Initiative (CSI) - the number of attendees broke the previous turnout record set by Thousand Oaks. The session’s host, Javier Burgos, a SCE project manager, began the presentation by extending a heartfelt compliment to those present, commending them for recognizing solar systems as part of the solution toward solving the growing energy crisis.

Launching right into it, the SCE representative began the session by explaining the inception and offerings of the CSI. The program, which offers monetary incentives to home and business owners who install approved photovoltaic (PV) solar technology, was created by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the California Energy Commission (CEC) as a result of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2008 Executive Order and the subsequent enactment of Senate Bill 1 (SB1). The CSI and SCE, Burgos stated, is offering homeowners incentives of 20 to 25 percent of the cost of a home solar system on top of applicable federal tax credits.

The reason for creating the initiative in the first place, according to SCE’s representative, was to “subsidize a technology that, when perfected and rendered cost-effective, will be widely adopted.” It is the hope of SCE, and indeed California’s other investor-owned energy providers (PG&E and SDG&E), that solar technology will become cost-effective enough within 10 years that they will no longer have to provide subsidies to homeowners in order for residents to invest in installations.

Gary Barsley, a manager with the CSI for SCE, stated during a phone interview that encouraging homeowners to install PV systems is a way of reducing Edison’s recurring peak load problems. Through the promotion of energy self-generation, Barsley said, SCE will actually be benefiting both itself and its customers by scaling down peak demand and reducing the issues associated with unmet energy requirements. “We’re not hurting ourselves,” Barsley said. He acknowledged that singular PV systems on their own generate little energy but, as an aggregate entity, are capable of taking significant “pressure off the grid.” As a means of coping with a rising demand in energy, Barsley’s company sees the CSI as a “decoupling” program (one that separates and differentiates company earnings from sales) and as a tool to help the energy provider “operate in a more stable manner.”

The CSI is also viewed by SCE as way of avoiding the construction of new power plants that “can cost in excess of $1 billion each.” There is also the expected resistance, Barsley went on, of Southern California residents who would adopt the NIMBY stance on any proposed new energy facilities. “The goal,” Burgos and Barsley both stated, “is to install 3,000MW (megawatts) of solar-produced, grid-connected electricity by 2016.” Since the average home uses 8,000 kWh of energy per year, this 3,000MW mark would provide electricity to about 600,000 homes.

During the information session, Burgos addressed the desirably sustainable elements of solar energy technology but, interestingly, did not belabor the point. He took for granted that the audience members were already hip to the green benefits of solar power and were well aware of the growing necessity for sustainable energy sources. Instead, the session’s host focused his talking time on what people were most curious about: the fiscal demands and impacts of solar systems for residents considering a home installation.

The key points of the Powerpoint presentation (the information it provided can be found here and here) centered around answering, in relatable terms, the common and key questions posed by average homeowners: “Does my home get enough sun?” “How much roof area do I need?” “How big should my PV system be?” “How much will my PV system cost?” and so on.

Burgos offered rough estimates of initial installation costs (after subtracting incentives and tax credits) and stated, according to a home’s size and energy demands, a PV system can cost its owner anywhere from $9,000 to $44,000. But, Burgos warned, before an interested solar buyer goes out and starts collecting bids from area-specific SCE registered installers, contractors, and retailers (who were milling about the room and speaking with attendees before and after the presentation), a potential buyer should make sure that his or her house is completely energy efficient before investing in a PV system.

If you’d like to register to and attend a free Homeowner Solar Information Session near you, call (866) 970-9221. And for more detailed, in-depth information about the California Solar Initiative and the Go Solar California program, visit gosolarcalifornia.ca.gov.

Tyler Hayden is an Independent intern.



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