City's Landmark Solar Program on Life Support
Clean Energy And Local Job Advocates Urged To Call The SFPUC At (415) 554-3155 And Say "I Support GoSolarSF"
Since 2008, San Francisco’s successful GoSolarSF program has enabled over 2,000 homeowners, tenants, businesses, and nonprofits to put solar panels on their roof, dramatically increasing the supply of clean energy in the City and creating hundreds of local jobs in the process.
City officials including Mayor Ed Lee are major supporters of the program, as are organizations ranging from environmental stalwarts such as Sierra Club to groups that provide training to economically disadvantaged San Franciscans such as Asian Neighborhood Design. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission program has been replicated around the country while cultivating a local solar installation community and attracting clean tech innovators from around the globe to headquarter in the City.
So why is it that every year GoSolarSF supporters find themselves pitted against SFPUC staffers intent on slashing the program’s budget and driving these success stories into the ground?
Yesterday, the San Francisco Examiner broke the story of the latest round of efforts to restore budget cuts that now threaten GoSolarSF’s very existence, as all-time low levels of funding mean less than a third of San Franciscans that apply actually receive their ratepayer rebate with layoffs now looming among local installation companies. Homeowners that have saved up money over the past several years in order to use the incentive to install solar panels have even reportedly begun filing complaints with City departments in light of the program’s unavailability.
San Francisco’s former Assessor-Recorder, Assemblyman Phil Ting, worked with former Mayor Gavin Newsom to establish the program and demonstrated that the taxpayer dollars that fund GoSolarSF through the sale of SFPUC electricity to city departments are actually returned to city’s coffers in the form of increased property taxes on homes and businesses that shoot up in value when they go solar. Every dollar that the City puts into GoSolarSF unlocks five to ten times that value in local economic stimulus as San Franciscans combine their own savings plus state and federal incentives to put local hires to work on their rooftops and behind the scenes at solar companies around the City and region. No less than 80 low-income San Franciscans have gone to work through GoSolarSF.
The program has historically been funded at $5 million annually, but was slashed to $2 million last June with rebates now offered in quarterly installments that dry up on the very first day of availability due to pent-up customer demand.
Through GoSolarSF, residents and businesses have installed 5.3 megawatts of new solar power, enough to power nearly 5,500 homes, sending San Francisco from last to first among Bay Area counties in terms of solar per capita. A $5 million-funded GoSolarSF was cited as a key recommendation in Mayor Lee’s recently released 100% Renewable Energy Task Force Report.
“GoSolarSF means more installations, more local jobs, and more solar,” said Eddie Ahn, policy counsel at nonprofit Brightline Defense, which has strongly advocated for the program since helping GoSolarSF get off the ground. “It’s a shining example of a model green program for the City."