Thursday, March 29, 2007

Menendez, Cardoza-Ferguson “SOLAR Act” Would Ensure Fair Treatment of Solar Energy System Owners

WASHINGTON -- As more US consumers turn to solar power during the current energy crisis, US Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Reps. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) and Michael Ferguson (R-NJ) today introduced legislation that would affirm the right of American consumers to install solar systems on their roofs and receive fair treatment as energy producers.

The “Solar Opportunity and Local Access Rights Act” (SOLAR) would establish national standards for the interconnection and net metering of solar energy systems, based on the most progressive state standards to date. The legislation would require utilities to credit their customers at retail electric rates for supplying excess solar power to the grid. The bill would also establish that ownership of renewable energy credits (RECs) resides with the solar system owner for purposes of selling or trading to meet a state or federal renewable portfolio standard.

The SOLAR Act would protect solar consumers from restrictive covenants that block the siting of solar systems on a roof – similar to the current legislative treatment of satellite dishes. The bill would also help shield prospective system buyers from exorbitant permitting and licensing fees.

"Tackling our nation's energy challenges in a clean and efficient way should be our top priority," said Senator Menendez. "Rather than putting up roadblocks to those who want to use alternative energy sources, we should be incentivizing such consumer initiative. This Act would ease restrictions on those who want to harvest alternative energy, enhance the security of our energy grid, and relieve the load on often overwhelmed power sources."

"I installed solar panels on my own home because I believe alternative energy sources such as solar are critical for the future of our environment, economy and national security," said Rep. Cardoza. "We must remove obstacles standing in the way of Americans who wish to become good stewards of the environment by utilizing solar power. This bill will benefit consumers and spur needed investment in the solar energy industry, which promises to play a big role in America's drive to energy independence."

"New Jersey is the nation's leader in solar power with deployment of more than 2,000 solar-powered homes and businesses,” said Rep. Ferguson. “This important legislation takes all the good things we're doing in New Jersey to increase the use of solar energy and makes them available to the rest of the nation. New Jersey leads the way in making solar energy simple and easy to use. Solar power benefits our environment and Congress must do more to make solar power more accessible and affordable to consumers."

The Solar Energy Industries Association praised Senator Menendez and Representatives Cardoza and Ferguson for their leadership in introducing the bill.

“Every American should have the right to own a solar energy system,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA President. “Consumers who take a personal step to increase our energy independence and reduce pollution should have the strength of the law behind them. This bill would truly empower more Americans to make the switch to clean, renewable solar energy.”

The SOLAR Act contains the following provisions:

Net Metering: Requires utilities, within 1 year of the date of enactment, to provide net metering for customer-owned solar power systems up to 2 MW in size at retail electric rates. Ownership of renewable energy credits (RECs) resides with the solar system owner for purposes of selling or trading to meet a state or federal renewable portfolio standard (RPS)

Interconnection: Requires the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, within 1 year of the date of enactment, to publish model standards for physical connection between the electric grid and customer-owned solar systems up to 20 MW in size. The model standards shall have separate expedited procedures for systems under 15 kW and for systems between 15 kW and 2 MW.

Solar Siting Rights: Instructs the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to issue regulations within 180 days of the law’s enactment that 1) prohibit any private covenant, contract provision, lease provision, homeowners’ association rule or bylaw, or similar restriction that impairs homeowners’ ability to install and use a solar energy system and 2) expedite the approval, where such approval is required, of applications to install systems.

Cap on Permitting and Licensing Fees: Requires that permitting and licensing fee costs are $500 or less for residential installations, and $10,000 or less for commercial installations.

Renewable Energy Contracts for Federal Agencies: Allows federal agencies to enter into power purchase agreements with renewable energy providers for up to 30 years.

For more information, visit

SEIA is the national trade association of solar energy manufacturers, dealers, distributors, contractors, installers, architects, consultants and marketers. Established in 1975, SEIA works to expand the use of solar technologies in the global marketplace.


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