California gets SOLAR

Following in the footsteps of the Emerald City of Freiburg Germany, California is on the path to a green economy. Senate Bill 43 has been passed by California’s senate, the assembly and is being sent to Governor Jerry Brown for signature. The bill allows the mass population of California to enjoy the ecological and economical benefits o f renewable energy through the Green Tariff Shared Renewables Program. Solar and wind energy will be available to all with the opportunity for Californians to invest in projects to reduce their power costs and carbon footprints. This means the creation of thousands of jobs, investment in the state economy, and meeting the goals of California’s current Renewables Portfolio Standard. The Green Tariff will allow any renters or customers of investor-owned utilities to purchase up to 100 percent of their electricity from renewable facilities.

As a whole, the state is taking the initiative to make low cost renewable resources available to everyone. Solar energy is going to be available to the masses, not just the privileged few, and both the long term and short term benefits should set a precedent for the remaining 49 states to follow. Not only will the passage of SB 43 allow Californians to gain access to renewable energy, but with the additional passage of Assembly Bill 327 Californians will be able to sell back their excess solar energy at a fixed rate. The solar industry of California is booming, and it’s high time the rest of the nation took notice.

What does this have to do with federalism and states’ rights? To answer that, one must look at several factors: Congress created the Energy and Commerce Committee, composed of 17 government officials – 14 of which are climate deniers. On Wednesday September 18, this committee held a hearing to discuss climate change with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy. This hearing was filled with criticism of climate policies, unwillingness to compromise on policy, and ignorance on the economics and science of climate change and policy. If a federal committee is unable to come to agreement on a national course of action regarding climate, meeting the needs of environmental policy is left to the state and local governments. This relates to the ratification debate in regards to state power versus federal power. The anti-federalists saw corruption as a possibility in a federal government, and one could argue that the composition of the climate committee is corrupt. However, because states have individual governing bodies they are able to do negate this corruption at a concentrated level through state legislation.

If California can use state legislation to pull off what the nation as a whole cannot, then will other states use these bills for precedent? At the current rate of solar growth, it could be just a matter of time of who the light will shine on next in the solar power movement. If the bills are passed and California proves the climate policies improve the economy as well as the environment, and more states follow suit in creating effective policies, perhaps the federal committee will be able to reach a more conclusive agreement on environmental policy.

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