In 2009 at Solar Power International, the largest solarconference and expo in North America, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) President Rhone Resch unveiled the solar bill of rights. Among the manifesto’seight points are provisions promoting the solar industry’s right todevelop solar on public lands, and the consumer’s right to becompensated for the power generated by their solar panels by at leastthe going retail rate charged by their utility.
The Solar Bill of Rights is part policy, part advocacy — it waswritten to help expand the American solar market by outlining basicpolicy requirements and educating the public on the benefits of solarenergy. We’re including it here, for your reading pleasure. But don’tjust read it — sign it! Astrong solar industry is consistent with a strong America.
1. Americans have the right to put solar on their homes orbusinesses
Millions of Americans want toput solar on the roof of their home or business, but many are preventedfrom doing so by local restrictions. Some homeowners associations haveprevented residents from going solar through neighborhood covenants,which allow for the association to veto any changes to a property’saesthetics. Some utilities and municipalities have also made itprohibitively 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 somecases, each utility) has a unique process for connecting solar systemsto the local electricity grid. National interconnection standards willcreate a uniform process and paperwork, creating a simple process forthe homeowner and a standardized physical connection for manufacturers.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 thevery least with full retail electricity rates
Residential solar systemsgenerate excess electricity in the middle of the day, when the ownersaren’t usually at home. Net metering requires the utility company tocredit any excess generation to the customer at full retail rates at aminimum – effectively running the electricity meter backwards when thesystem is generating more electricity than the occupants of the houseare using. Allowing customers to net meter is critical to making solaran economically viable option for most homeowners.
4. The solar industry has the right to a fair competitiveenvironment
The highly profitable fossilfuel industries have received tens of billions of dollars in subsidiesfrom the federal government for decades. In addition, fossil fuelindustries are protected from bearing the full social costs of thepollution they produce. The solar energy industry and the public expect a fair playing field, with all energy sources evaluated based on theirfull, life-cycle costs and benefits to society. Therefore it iscritical that solar energy receive the same level of support, for thesame duration, as the fossil fuel industry.
5. The solar industry has the right to produce clean energy onpublic lands
America has some of the bestsolar resources in the world, which are often on public lands overseenby the federal government. But even though oil and gas industries areproducing on 13 million acres of public lands, no solar permits havebeen approved. Solar is a clean, renewable American resource and solardevelopment on public lands is a critical component of any nationalstrategy to expand our use of renewable energy.
6. The solar industry has the right to sell its power across a new, 21st century transmission grid
Over the last 100 years, thetransmission grid in the United States has been built as a patchwork oflocal systems, designed and planned to meet local needs. As the needs of customers have changed, so has the way the electric industry doesbusiness. What haven’t changed are the rules crafted in an era ofcoal-fired power plants. What is needed now is an investment ininfrastructure to connect areas rich in solar resources with majorpopulation centers.
7. Americans have the right to buy solar electricity from theirutility
Many utility companies havenever considered offering their customers the option to purchase cleansolar energy, rather than dirty energy from coal or other fossil fuels.Nation-wide over 90 percent of people support increased use of solarenergy, and over three-quarters believe it should be a major priority of the federal government. Despite this, only around 25 percent of utility customers in the U.S. have the ability to actually purchase clean,renewable power from their utility, and only a fraction of thoseprograms offer solar energy. Utilities should be required to offer theelectricity source that their customers want.
8. Americans have the right to – and should expect – the highestethical treatment from the solar industry
Solar energy systems are aninvestment as much as a physical product. Consumers deserve top-qualityinformation and treatment from solar energy providers and installers.Consumers should expect the solar industry to minimize its environmental impact and communicate information about available incentives in aclear, accurate and accessible manner. Finally, consumers should expectthat solar systems will work better than advertised, and that companieswill make every good faith effort to support solar owners over the lifeof their systems.