Solar Power Turns on Texas Lawmakers of Both Parties

AUSTIN, Texas, February 2, 2009 (ENS) – Less than a week after the biannual Texas state legislature opened, a bipartisan group of lawmakers today showed their support for a slew of bills promoting the development of solar energy in the state.

At least 18 bills have already been filed to support the deployment of solar technologies by legislators in both chambers and across the political spectrum.

“The sun that strikes Texas’ buildings and soil each day has the potential to power the state many times over – and the technologies needed to harvest that energy are already here,” said Senator Troy Fraser, an Abilene Republican who chairs the Senate Business and Commerce committee. Fraser authored SB 545, legislation creating a rebate program to make it easier for Texans to install solar on their homes and businesses.

“The question facing Texas is whether we will lead the solar energy revolution – bringing good jobs and clean power to our state – or whether we will lag behind,” Fraser said.

State senators, representatives, mayors, business leaders and renewable energy advocates today held press conferences in six cities to announce the findings of a new report showing that if legislation requiring the state’s utilitites to offer direct solar incentives to consumers and businesses, thousands of jobs would be created and greenhouse gas emissions would be slashed.

Authored by nonprofit environmental and consumers groups Environment Texas, Public Citizen, and Vote Solar, the report outlines costs, number of systems, job creation and the environmental benefits of a proposed 2,000 megawatt rebate program for distributed generation.

HB 278 introduced by Rafael Anchia, a Dallas Democrat, and SB 427, introduced by Florence Shapiro, a Plano Republican, would require the state’s electric utilities to support the development of 2,000 megawatts of solar and other on-site renewable technologies by offering incentives to consumers and businesses.

The solar photovoltaic system atop the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (Photo courtesy U. Texas Health Science Center)

The nonprofits’ report found that such a standard could lead to installations on as many as 500,000 roofs in Texas by 2020 at a cost of about 98 cents per month per Texan.

This investment would create an estimated 22,000 jobs and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide emissions by 29 million tons, the equivalent of taking 4.3 million cars off the road for a year.

“Texas has the ‘right stuff’ to become a world leader in solar energy development – reaping the benefits of cleaner air, a robust economy and reduce dependence on fossil fuels,” said Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas and one of the report’s authors. “Creating a statewide rebate program for solar will give Texans more power over their electric bills and kick-start an economic boom for the state.”

“Experience in Germany, Japan, California and elsewhere has shown that solar incentives will lead to increased demand and lower prices,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office and an author of the report. “These are the first steps on the road to a robust, self-sufficient solar market in which government incentives are no longer necessary.”

Participating in today’s events in Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Fort Worth, Waco and Abilene were solar businesses such as Meridian Energy Systems, the Austin Chamber of Commerce, and environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund.

Governor Rick Perry said in his State of the State address on January 27 that he supports the “all-of-the-above” approach to energy, “increasing our affordable supplies of traditional energy sources, as well as wind, solar, bio-fuels, and nuclear, as a way to bolster our economy and move us closer to energy independence.”

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