Senate Passes Senator Wiener’s Two Bills to Expand Solar Power and Energy Storage and Meet California’s Renewable Energy Goals

May 31, 2017

Sacramento –  Today, the Senate approved two bills by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) to dramatically expand and transform California’s use of solar energy and meet its aggressive renewable energy goals. SB 71 will expand rooftop solar, and SB 700 will provide customer rebates for installing energy storage systems, which will allow solar energy to be used at night. SB 700 also ensures that energy storage investments will be made in low-income and economically disadvantaged communities.

SB 71 and SB 700 were each passed by a vote of 23-13, and both now move to the Assembly for consideration.

“In California, we are pushing aggressive renewable energy goals because we know that fighting climate change means taking action now,” said Senator Wiener. “These two bills will push us down the path to 100% renewable energy. To meet our goals, we need solar and other renewable energy in every city and neighborhood in California, not just those that can afford it. These bills will transform solar power and energy storage so that all can reap the benefits of clean, renewable energy.”

SB 71 authorizes the implementation of a solar roof mandate, which will require solar panels to be installed on most new buildings in California.  SB 71 will make California the first state in the country to require solar installation on new construction.  SB 71 is co-authored by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) and is supported by environmental, clean energy, and environmental justice groups, including the Sierra Club, Brightline Defense, the Solar Energy Industries Association, California League of Conservation Voters, Environment California, 350 Bay Area, and others.

SB 700 provides rebates to customers for installing energy storage systems, which allow solar power to be used at all hours of the day by addressing the so-called "duck curve" - the challenge of over-production of solar energy during the day and under-production at night. By supporting and incentivizing the development of better and more efficient energy storage technologies, SB 700 will reduce the costs for energy storage just as previous rebate programs did for solar power.  SB 700 is sponsored by Environment California and supported by over 60 environmental, solar, and environmental justice organizations.

California is the leading producer of solar energy in the country, with over 15,000 megawatts of solar energy installed, which is enough solar energy to power over 3.7 million homes. In addition to the significant environmental benefits provided by solar, the solar industry also employs over 75,000 people throughout California, which includes manufacturers, distributors, and installers.

SB 71 – Rooftop Solar

Existing state law requires that 15% of roof area on all new small and mid-sized buildings be “solar ready”. This means this area of the roof is unshaded by the proposed building itself, and free of obtrusions. This state law – part of California’s Title 24 Energy Standards -- applies to most new residential and commercial buildings of 10 floors or less.

SB 71 will authorize the California Energy Commission, as part of its update to the building energy efficiency standards, to require that solar panels be installed on these “solar ready” roofs for new construction. This can take the form of either solar photovoltaic or solar water panels, both of which supply 100% renewable energy.

“Solar is a cost-effective and reliable source of electricity and Senate Bill 71 will help ensure that it's installed at the optimum time: when a building is being built,” said Brandon Smithwood, director of California state affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association. “This legislation will enable the state to meet its climate goals, while expanding the benefits of solar and its accessibility to even more Californians.”

“California has long led the country on climate action and energy innovation, and we need that kind of leadership today more than ever. This bold solar legislation shows the nation and the world that the Golden State is committed to a clean energy transition that benefits our communities, our economy and our climate,” said Susannah Churchill, California director for Vote Solar. 

SB 700 – Energy Storage Initiative

The Energy Storage Initiative would be funded by taking the amount of money currently authorized for energy storage under the SGIP program for energy storage (which is set to expire in 2019) and create a separate energy storage program, which will be extended until 2027. With this funding secure for a decade, the energy storage market will have certainty and support to develop energy storage technologies, which will make technology more efficient, more effective, and cheaper.

SB 700 requires 30 percent of the rebate program to be reserved for energy storage systems in low-income residential housing and disadvantaged communities, as well as job training and workforce development.

“California can continue to lead the clean energy revolution that is cleaning our air and staving off the worst impacts of climate change,” said Dan Jacobson, State Director of Environment California. “We can’t continue to use fossil fuels when we have better options.  SB 700 allows solar power to work at night.”

“Through this statewide energy storage program, underserved communities will see strong environmental and economic benefits,” said Eddie Ahn, executive director of Brightline, a public policy organization representing a coalition of nine environmental and workforce justice advocates and service providers throughout the Bay Area.  “By guaranteeing 30% of the program's funding for low-income communities and tenants as well as local hiring, this program will ensure equitable access to jobs created from storage installation and longterm assets placed in our communities.”

The passage of SB 700 in the Senate today signals that policy makers have a real appetite to create a marketplace for local, customer-sited energy storage,” said Laura Gray, Energy Storage Policy Adviser at California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA). “This bill takes California's clean energy economy to the next level by allowing consumers to store renewable energy and use it when they need it most. This will save businesses and schools money, give consumers control over their energy use and ensure that all Californians can participate in our transition to clean, local energy.”