EDITORIAL: Bills expanding opportunities in solar are good for California

The Senate and Assembly passed companion measures last week that would aid consumers concerned about the environment, while vastly increasing the efficient use of solar power.

Gov. Jerry Brown should focus on the measures and embrace the concept of community solar power, which would help the state attain ambitious goals of using solar, wind and fuel-cell technology to power 3 million homes by 2020.

As it is, rooftop solar isn't an option for apartment dwellers, and doesn't make sense for people who live in coastal areas shrouded in fog.

Senate Bill 43 by Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and Assembly Bill 1014 by Assembly Member Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, would authorize individuals to buy shares in midsize solar arrays.

By buying into community solar projects, any utility customer could shave money off their bills and help reduce the nation's reliance on carbon. Community solar also would benefit schools and municipalities seeking to lower their energy bills.

Similar legislation by Wolk failed last year in the face of opposition by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Edison.

As her bill languished, The Sacramento Bee's Editorial Board wrote: "The question for the Legislature is straightforward: Does it want to make solar energy available to all residents of the state at reasonable prices, or does it want to side with the utilities, which worry about more change to their business model?"

Wolk and Williams have reshaped the proposal to resolve at least some of the utilities' complaints, although the utilities remain skeptical.

Legislative staff analysis of Williams' bill points out that "California accounts for more than 70% of solar photovoltaic installations for residential and commercial electricity production in the United States. Despite its substantial lead, California is missing an opportunity to speed the deployment of renewable energy technology to meet the electricity needs of its residents."

Allowing more people to participate -- even those whose homes and businesses aren't oriented toward the sun -- is a good idea that will benefit our state.