Monday, October 19, 2015

Bakersfield Backs Solar 5-1 Vote!

Bakersfield Backs Solar 5-1 Vote! 
City Council Becomes 1st City in Nation to Pass Resolution Calling on Congress to Extend ITC 

BAKERSFIELD — Tonight, the Bakersfield City Council passed a resolution in support of extending the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar energy, requesting that Congress take immediate action to protect local solar jobs and consumer savings.  Bakersfield, more commonly known for its oil and gas production, is now the first city in the nation to call for congressional support of solar power, highlighting the growing influence of renewable energy in the biggest oil and gas-producing region in the state.
“The federal solar investment tax credit is critical for supporting local jobs and reducing energy bills for Bakersfield homeowners and businesses,” saidCouncilmember Willie Rivera, sponsor of the city resolution that calls on Congress to extend the federal solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC).  “I am pleased that the Bakersfield City Council passed by 5 to 1 this resolution urging Congress to extend this credit to keep our local solar economy growing.”
The resolution was first proposed at the September 2, 2015 City Council meeting by Councilmember Rivera, following strong public comments requesting the City’s backing of the extension of the solar tax credit. 
The resolution highlights how solar energy spurs local economic development and supports local solar jobs, adding more than $15 billion to the U.S. economy and employing 54,000 Californians statewide.  It also emphasizes how long-term policies like the federal solar investment tax credit have helped lower the cost of solar and stimulate the growth of local solar markets. 
“Losing these tax credits would cost jobs and increase the cost of solar energy to residents and businesses,” said Councilmember Bob Smith, cosponsor of the resolution. “I strongly support Bakersfield’s growing solar economy, and for the sake of our homeowners and enterprises, these tax credits are worthy of extension.”
The federal investment tax credit (ITC) is a 30 percent credit for solar systems on residential and commercial properties.  Unless Congress takes action, on December 31, 2016, the ITC declines to 10 percent for commercial installations and completely expires for residential projects. 
The ITC has helped the solar market grow significantly since it was passed in 2006. The solar industry now employs over 170,000 people nationwide and is growing at a rate nearly 20 times faster than job growth in the overall economy, according to the Solar Foundation.  In addition, long-term supportive policies, such as net metering, and proper incentives have brought about significant cost reductions within the solar industry, enabling the growth of local solar businesses. 
“Solar is in the middle of a strong growth phase, creating local jobs and supporting local businesses,” added Glenn Bland, founder and chairman of Bland Solar and Air.  “We’ve been installing solar on homes and businesses in Bakersfield for 30 years and given the current growth of the industry, now is not the time to change course by letting the federal solar tax credit expire.”
There are now over 10,000 households and businesses with solar in Bakersfield, making Bakersfield one of the top cities in the state, not to mention the country, for solar. In fact, according to the California Solar Statistics database, Bakersfield has twice as many solar installations as San Francisco. The city of 363,000 also has comparable amounts of solar installations to much larger cities like San Diego and San Jose.
“Solar is a bright spot in the Central Valley’s economy,” said Kelly Knutsen, policy advisor for the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA),which gives voice to the more than 2,000 solar companies doing business in the state.  “We applaud the Bakersfield City Council’s leadership on this issue and urge the valley’s congressional delegation to prioritize extending the solar tax credit now.” 
Copies of the resolution will be transmitted to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Majority Leader of the Senate, and to each of California’s U.S. Senators and Representatives.  A similar resolution passed the California state legislature on September 11, 2015, by a strong bipartisan vote of 38-0 in the state senate, and 77-1 in the state assembly.

“Without the ITC, research shows jobs of more than 100,000 Americans – nearly 34,000 in California alone – are at risk,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch, which is leading the fight to extend the ITC in Washington D.C.  “More cities should follow Bakersfield’s lead, sending a message to Congress that the American public deserves energy independence and the well-paying jobs that solar produces.”

"This was a huge team effort. Many thanks to CALSEIA's Central Valley chapter and especially all our Bakersfield companies like Bland Solar who pulled this whole thing off tonight," said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of CALSEIA.  "Now its time to get the rest of the Central Valley cities and counties, and others throughout the state, to follow Bakersfield's lead."