SEIA Announces Solar Energy Bill of Rights

Published January 12, 2011

Solar Bill of Rights©


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1.      Americans have the right to put solar on their homes or businesses.
Millions of Americans want to put solar on the roof of their home or business, but many are prevented from doing so by local restrictions. Some homeowners associations have prevented residents from going solar through neighborhood covenants, which allow for the association to veto any changes to a property’s aesthetics. Some utilities and municipalities have also made it prohibitively time-consuming and/or expensive to have a system permitted or inspected.

2.      Americans have the right to connect their solar energy system to the grid with uniform national standards.
Currently, each state (in some cases, each utility) has a unique process for connecting solar systems to the local electricity grid. National interconnection standards will create a uniform process and paperwork, creating a simple process for the homeowner. Connecting a home solar system shouldn’t be any more complicated for the homeowner than setting up an Internet connection.

3.      Americans have the right to Net Meter and be compensated at the very least with full retail electricity rates.
Residential solar systems generate excess electricity in the middle of the day, when the owners aren’t usually at home. Net metering requires the utility company to credit any excess generation to the customer at full retail rates at a minimum – effectively running the electricity meter backwards when the system is generating more electricity than the occupants of the house are using. Allowing customers to net meter is critical to making solar an economically viable option for most homeowners.  Setting a minimum threshold of full retail rates also ensures the option of creating feed-in-tariffs.

4.      The solar industry has the right to a fair competitive environment.
The highly profitable fossil fuel industries have received tens of billions of dollars in subsidies from the federal government for decades. In addition, fossil fuel industries are protected from bearing the full social costs of the pollution they produce. The solar energy industry and the public expect a fair playing field, with all energy sources evaluated based on their full, life-cycle costs and benefits to society.  Therefore it is critical that solar energy receive the same level of support, for the same duration, as the fossil fuel industry.

5.      The solar industry has the right to produce clean energy on public lands.
America has some of the best solar resources in the world, which are often on public lands overseen by the federal government. But even though oil and gas industries are producing on 13 million acres of public lands, no solar permits have been approved. Solar is a clean, renewable American resource and solar development on public lands is a critical component of any national strategy to expand our use of renewable energy.

6.      The solar industry has the right to interconnect and build new transmission lines.
Over the last 100 years, the transmission grid in the United States has been built as an uncoordinated patchwork of local systems.  A decades-old power grid forces solar generators to play by decades-old rules for planning, building, and paying for access to the transmission grid.  Expanding the use of renewable energy in the United States will require policies and investments that allow remote areas rich in solar resources to connect to major population centers with significant demand for electric power.

7.      Americans have the right to buy solar electricity from their utility. 
Many utility companies have never thought to offer their customers the option to purchase clean solar energy, rather than dirty energy from coal or other fossil fuels. Nation-wide over 90% of people support increased use of solar energy, and over three-quarters believe it should be a major priority of the federal government. Despite this, only around 25% of utility customers in the US have the ability to actually purchase clean, renewable power from their utility, and only a tiny fraction of those programs offer solar energy.  Utilities should be required to offer the electricity source that their customers want.

8.     Americans have the right to – and should expect – the highest ethical treatment from the solar industry.
Solar energy systems are an investment as much as a physical product. Consumers deserve top-quality information and treatment from solar energy providers and installers. Consumers should expect the solar industry to minimize its environmental impact through panel recycling and other programs, and communicate information about available incentives in a clear, accurate and accessible manner. Finally, consumers should expect that solar systems will work better than advertised, and that companies will make every good faith effort to support solar owners over the life of their systems.

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