Thursday, November 5, 2009

Solar Bill of Rights


If you own your home, and you have good sun exposure and you can afford it (or have a clever lease), you should be able to put solar panels on your home. Unfortunately, site assessment and affordability are not the only hurdles that many home owners need to overcome.

Across the country, local zoning laws and homeowners' associations (HOA) govern the approved uses of a property. While these rules are often created to uphold a community's property values, they can also prohibit the installation of solar panels, solar water heaters or solar heating and cooling technologies.

The tide is recently shifting and zoning laws are now being used to protect a homeowner's right to solar access from California to Maryland. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) aims to eliminate zoning laws and HOA rules that prohibit the installation of solar nationwide.

Recently the House-passed energy and climate bill included a provision which would direct the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to prohibit private covenants or homeowners associations from preventing the installation of solar systems through rules or excessive fees.

Related Legislation

To secure policies of solar freedom and to empower consumers, Rhone Resch, President and CEO of the SEIA, declared, on October 27, 2009, in the City of Anaheim, California, a Solar Bill of Rights:

"We seek no more than the freedom to compete on equal terms and no more than the liberty for people to choose the energy source they think best."

Here is the 8 point proposed Solar Bill of Rights.
  1. Americans have the right to put solar on their homes or businesses. Restrictive covenants, onerous connection rules, and excessive permitting and inspections fees prevent too many American homes and businesses from going solar.

  2. Americans have the right to connect their solar energy system to the grid with uniform national standards. This should be as simple as connecting a telephone or appliance. No matter where they live, consumers should expect a single standard for connecting their system to the electric grid.

  3. Americans have the right to Net Meter and be compensated at the very least with full retail electricity rates. When customers generate excess solar power utilities should pay them consumer at least the retail value of that power.

  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 for decades. The solar energy expects a fair playing field, especially since the American public overwhelmingly supports the development and use of solar.

  5. The solar industry has the right to equal access to public lands. America has the best solar resources in the world, yet solar companies have zero access to public lands compared to the 45 million acres used by oil and natural gas companies.

  6. The solar industry has the right to interconnect and build new transmission lines. When America updates its electric grid, it must connect the vast solar resources in the Southwest to population centers across the nation.

  7. Americans have the right to buy solar electricity from their utility. Consumers have no choice to buy clean, reliable solar energy from their utilities instead of the dirty fossil fuels of the past.

  8. Americans have the right, and should expect, the highest ethical treatment from the solar industry. Consumers should expect the solar energy industry to minimize its environmental impact, provide systems that work better than advertised, and communicate incentives clearly and accurately.
Solar Energy Industries Association: Solar Bill of Rights

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