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San Francisco Mayor Newsom’s Solar Incentive Program (which we’ve covered here, here and here) is on the skids again this week following a budget committee meeting. The original legislation, which is entirely separate from the newly announced 5 MW installations, proposed using $3 million for a […]

San Francisco Mayor Newsom’s Solar Incentive Program (which we’ve covered here, here and here) is on the skids again this week following a budget committee meeting. The original legislation, which is entirely separate from the newly announced 5 MW installations, proposed using $3 million for a pilot program whereby San Franciscans could receive rebates up to $5,000 for residential installations and up to $10,000 for commercial solar systems.

The city hoped that the $3 million in public funding would leverage some $1.5 million in private investment to boost the city’s solar capacity to 55 megawatts on some 15,000 rooftops over the next 10 years. The proposal has had representatives from the local solar installers including Akeena, SolarCity and Sun Run, as well as numerous venture capitalists, come out to support it at board meetings. Several of the installers had spent money on marketing in preparation for these incentives.

However, some city supervisors are against public funds going directly to private residents or businesses. Supervisor Jake McGoldrick has put forward a proposal to block the intended funds from putting solar up on anything except public buildings. Meanwhile, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi has proposed a compromise of sorts that cuts the funding to $1.5 million, of which half is specifically limited to non-profit organizations and low-income households.

Unfortunately, however, many in the solar community don’t think that’s a market that will capitalize on the solar opportunity. “You can wish it another way,” Adam Browning, executive director of Vote Solar, told Earth2Tech. “We all want to help that market segment, but it’s not going to happen. It’s focused on market segments where we don’t see much potential for market uptake.”

The Mirkarimi proposal would leave only $750,000 for wider use by more affluent homeowners, who are far more likely to take advantage of the program and put solar on their roofs. Most unfortunate about the situation is the fact that ostensibly all parties on all sides agree that the goal is to get the most solar up on San Francisco roofs as possible. There are currently some 650 solar roofs in the city, a far cry from the mayor’s goal of 10,000 by 2010.

The three proposals — the original $3 million proposal, McGoldrick’s public-building-only proposal and Mirkarimi’s compromise proposal — are now moving forward and will be voted in committees and by the entire board in early June.

By Craig Rubens

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