A Solar Bill of Rights

When I heard about a new solar bill unveiled yesterday at the Solar Power International convention, my first thoughts were: Who’s the sponsor and what committee will hold the hearings? The answer to the first question is: Rhone Resch. That caught me by surprise. I know Mr. Resch only as the head a solar trade group, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Hadn’t heard he had run for Congress.

Rhone Resch, head of the Solar Energy Industries Association

Rhone Resch, head of the Solar Energy Industries Association

It turns out, Resch is not a member of Congress and no committee will decide the fate of this bill.

While Resch’s document is enumerated like the Bill of Rights, it has far more in common with another early American document: the Declaration of Independence.

Write it off as a rhetorical flourish or a good sound bite if you will, but read the document and you’ll quickly recognize that Resch is as serious as Thomas Jefferson was when he drafted his “Dear George” letter to the King of England.

The phrase “Energy Independence” generally refers to an America free from addiction to foreign sources of energy. But if the phrase has a domestic side — Resch’s document embodies it.

Solar Bill of Rights

To secure a policy environment that allows solar energy to compete and empowers consumers to choose, Rhone Resch declared today, October 27, 2009, in the City of Anaheim, California, a Solar Bill of Rights:

We declare these rights not on behalf of our companies, but on behalf of our customers and our country. We seek no more than the freedom to compete on equal terms and no more than the liberty for consumers to choose the energy source they think best.

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.

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