Environment California Research & Policy Center released a report today on solar water heating technologies along with a coalition of policy makers, environmental groups and businesses. The report calls for an expansion of California’s solar power market to include solar water heating, a rooftop technology that captures sunlight to reduce fossil fuel use in homes and businesses.
Environment California Research & Policy Center’s new report, “Solar Water Heating: How California Can Reduce Its Dependence on Natural Gas,” summarizes the current state of solar water heating technologies and outlines the significant benefits of growing a more robust market for these systems.
“California needs more solar power if we are going to solve global warming and kick our addiction to fossil fuels,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, clean energy advocate for Environment California. “Solar water heating is an age-old technology that belongs on the roofs of the 21st Century.”
Some of the benefits highlighted in Environment California Research & Policy Center’s report include:
Greater Energy Independence: California imports 85 percent of its natural gas. An expanded solar water heating market could save 1.2 billion therms of natural gas each year, the equivalent of 5 percent of statewide gas consumption.
A Healthier Environment: Solar water heating could reduce global warming pollution by 6.8 million tons of CO2 per year. This is equivalent to the annual emissions from over one million cars, and represents 5 percent of the total reductions needed to meet the state’s greenhouse gas emissions cap by 2020.
Reduced Energy Bills: Consumers can cut their energy bills by up to 50 percent by investing in solar water heating technology. Decreased demand for natural gas saves all ratepayers money: some studies have shown that a 5 percent reduction in demand could shave 25 to 35 percent off California’s wholesale natural gas prices.
Policy makers joined Environment California in calling for more solar power. “Solar power represents a significant energy resource for California,” said Assemblymember Jared Huffman (Marin). “California should continue to seek greater energy independence, fight global warming, and save homeowners and businesses money by encouraging a mainstream market for solar power, including solar water heating.”
Businesses in California set up to service and supply a growing market for solar water heating joined in coalition. Members of the California Solar Energy Industry Association (CALSEIA) spoke of the potential for significant job growth in California from increased manufacturing and installation of solar rooftop systems.
“For decades we’ve manufactured solar water heating systems within the state for practically every market outside California,” said Freeman Ford, president and founder of FAFCO, a large solar water heating manufacturer based in Chico which exports systems to other states such as Hawaii and countries such as many in Europe. “Due to a lack of government support, California has fallen behind in utilizing solar power.”
Meanwhile, a new piece of legislation is moving through the state Legislature. AB 1470 is seen as a companion to SB 1 (Murray) signed into law last year, the Million Solar Roofs bill that created incentives for solar electric panels funded through a small surcharge on electricity bills. AB 1470 would similarly create consumer incentives for solar water heating systems through a small surcharge on natural gas bills. The roof of a typical home or business could physically support both a solar electric system and a solar water heating system, thus saving on both electricity and natural gas bills.