CALIFORNIA - JUNE 7 - Wednesday evening, the California General
Assembly approved a measure to create the nation’s largest solar water heating
program, promising to again expand the state’s market for clean, renewable
The bill, The Solar Water Heating and Efficiency
Act of 2007 (AB 1470), authored by Assembly member Jared Huffman, sponsored by
Environment California, and supported by hundreds of organizations and
businesses, would create a $250 million ten-year program to provide consumer
rebates for solar water heating systems, another form of solar power that is
currently underutilized in the United States but is thriving in European and
“Solar power represents a significant energy resource for
California,” said the bill’s author Assembly member Jared Huffman.
“With more solar power, we can enjoy greater energy independence, fight
global warming, and save California families and businesses money by
encouraging a mainstream market for solar water heating technologies.”
AB 1470 would compliment the Million Solar Roofs bill (SB 1 -
Murray), signed into law last year, that promotes solar electric technologies.
Instead of capturing sunlight to generate electricity, solar water heating
technologies use the sun to heat water to near boiling temperatures. The sun-heated water from the roof is
then stored for later use, a conventional water heater is needed only as a back
up. By cutting the amount of natural gas needed to heat water 50-75% per
building, solar water heating systems can lower energy bills, reduce global
warming pollution and make the state more independent of imported fossil fuels.
“California needs more solar power if we are
going to solve global warming and achieve true energy independence,” said Bernadette
Del Chiaro, Clean Energy Advocate for Environment California, sponsor of AB
1470. “We applaud the California Assembly for supporting this no-brainer
solution to our energy and environmental problems. With this bill, California is once again leading the nation
with real, viable clean energy solutions and taking another giant step toward
becoming the Saudi Arabia of the sun.”
A recently released report by Environment California Research & Policy Center, “Solar Water Heating: How
California Can Reduce Its Dependence on Natural Gas”, summarizes the
significant benefits of growing a market for solar water heating in California. Some of the benefits include:
- Greater Energy Independence: California imports 85% of its natural gas. An expanded solar
water heating market could save 1.2 billion therms of gas each year, of 5% of
statewide gas consumption.
- A Healthier Environment: If the potential market for solar water heating were
realized, this technology alone could reduce global warming pollution by 6.8
million tons per year. This represents 5% of the total reductions needed to
meet the state’s 2020 greenhouse gas emissions cap.
- Save Consumers Money: A typical solar water system costs between $4,000-6,000
before rebates. A federal tax credit combined with a state rebate provided by
this bill would cut costs in half saving consumers up to 33-50% on their
monthly energy bills. Meanwhile, studies have shown California’s potential market for solar water heating could
result in a 25-35% reduction in wholesale natural gas prices, saving all
ratepayers and having a positive impact on electricity prices as well.
AB 1470 would also create new jobs in California from both an increase in both
installation and manufacturing of solar water heating systems.
“For decades we’ve manufactured solar water heating systems
within the state for practically every market outside California,” said Freeman Ford, member of the
California Solar Energy Industry Association (CALSEIA) and Founder of FAFCO, a
large solar water heating manufacturer based in Chico. “Due to a lack of government
support, California has fallen behind in utilizing solar power. With AB 1470,
however, California could again take the lead in the solar water heating
AB 1470 now heads to the State Senate to be heard in
the Energy and Commerce Committee in June or early July.