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Michelle Kinman,
Environment California Research & Policy Center

San José ranks 5th for solar power in the nation

Solar energy grew 34% in San José in past year
For Immediate Release

San José, CA – Today, Environment California Research & Policy Center was joined in front of San José City Hall by Councilmember Ash Kalra and SunPower Managing Director Bobby Ram to celebrate San José’s impressive solar power achievements. San José has more solar panels than most major American cities, ranking 5th among dozens of metropolitan areas analyzed in a new report.

“Thanks to its forward-thinking programs and leaders like Councilmember Kalra,” said Garrick Monaghan, Solar Campaign Organizer with Environment California, “Our report shows that San José really shines when it comes to solar power.”

Los Angeles, San Diego, and Phoenix topped the list for most solar power in the Environment California Research & Policy Center analysis, Shining Cities 2016: How Smart Local Policies Are Expanding Solar Power in America.

Plummeting costs, increasing public concern over global warming, and technological innovation have all played a role in spurring the growth of solar energy, which last year was enough to power 5.4 million American homes.

The report found cities at the vanguard of the nation’s solar boom, with the top 20 solar cities – representing just 0.1 percent of U.S. land area – accounting for 6 percent of U.S. solar photovoltaic capacity at the end of 2015.

As population centers, cities are home to ample rooftop space and large electricity markets. Through power purchase agreements, promoting community solar programs, and installing solar on government property, city governments can play a leading role in developing solar energy.

"San José continues to be at the forefront of developing green initiatives that protect our environment and boost our local economy, and I'm truly proud of what we've accomplished," said Councilmember Kalra, who is also the City's Transportation and Environment Committee chair. "It's our responsibility to continue to create the demand and momentum towards a 100 percent clean, renewable energy future."

According to researchers who examined solar power installations in 64 American cities in nearly every state, the city of San José ranked 1st on the West Coast for solar per person and 3rd nationally, behind only Honolulu and Indianapolis.

San José also scored well in total capacity, ranking 5th in the nation; it had enough solar capacity at the end of last year to power over 35,000 homes.

While solar power is growing in California and throughout the nation, some utility companies are campaigning intensely to roll back key solar policies and to increase fees for rooftop solar, which they see as a direct threat to their business model. In January 2016, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted to preserve the state’s cornerstone solar policy, net metering, rejecting utility proposals to end the policy that gives Californians the opportunity to generate their own energy with solar power. The decision reflected the more than 150,000 petitions received by the Commission from Californians supporting net metering, a historic level of public engagement at the CPUC.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court has also stalled the Clean Power Plan, an Obama administration initiative to cap carbon pollution from power plants and provide incentives for clean energy like solar.

Environment California and other advocates urged cities to move forward with solar power development in spite of these attacks.

“Cities have been at the forefront of environmental change for decades,” said Monaghan. “And there’s no reason for them to stop now. The polluters can’t change the fact that solar power makes sense for our climate, our health, and our wallets.”

Top 20 Solar Cities by Total Installed Solar PV Capacity, End of 2015