Friday, May 1, 2009

Partly cloudy for solar?

Sorry it's been a few days since the last post. I've been suffering from the disease formerly known as the swine flu. No, I don't have it, but I've been sidelined by having to help figure out and report what's going on.

But back to more pleasant business while the disease continues under the cover of the public health system's caution.

The bill to give people incentives to install solar energy equipment is shining fairly brightly after passing the state Senate. On Tuesday, it went to the House Energy Resources Committee.

It provides for funding the incentives through a charge to electric customers - 20 cents monthly for residential users, $2 for commercial and $20 from industrial. It also calls for electricity providers to purchase any excess power generated by the solar outfits.

The bill also says up to 70 percent of the funding could be used for a utility-scale installation if the Public Utilities Commission says that would be more cost effective or a greater benefit to the grid.

Because of the wording, it is unclear just what impact the law would have up here on the tundra. And there's all those bureaucratic rules to be written if the bill passes that could have a big impact on implementation.

On the not-so-bright side, State Rep. David Swinford's bill to encourage more sustainable energy than just wind got slapped down by the House State Affairs committee when it didn't get enough votes to move on. He wants to establish a renewable energy standard that mandates utilities get solar energy into the electricity mix.

The Austin American-Statesman reports it may get another life next week if the committee chooses to vote again.

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