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San Antonio Could Have Brighter Solar Future

 

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Solar energy is less expensive in Texas than anywhere else in the country, and prices continue to drop at a steady rate. So powering homes and businesses with pollution-free solar isn’t just good for the environment — it’s good business.

CPS Energy announced that it would expand its solar rebate program by $15 million was a smart business move. It also demonstrates a renewed commitment to clean, renewable energy in a city that’s already paving the way for solar through revolutionary incentives and programs.

In fact, San Antonio is ranked seventh in the country for total installed solar capacity and 10th for solar capacity per capita, according to Environment Texas’ Shining Cities report.

Solar is providing increasing amounts of pollution-free power for homes and businesses in San Antonio and across the state. More and more residents are ready to join their ranks, and power their lives and communities with clean, renewable energy that lowers pollution and spurs local economies.

Solar is also helping create jobs. According to a new report by the Solar Foundation, Texas added 2,300 solar jobs last year, a 34 percent increase that boosted Texas to third in the nation for solar jobs.

CPS Energy’s solar initiatives already include innovative efforts, such as its roofless solar program, which allows homeowners to host third-party-owned solar panels that contribute power to our grid by adding capacity while cutting energy costs for residents. Another is the rent-a-roof program, in which CPS uses the roofs of San Antonio residents to implement solar where building owners may not otherwise take advantage of the sun’s energy.

These programs, and the recent commitment to expand the rebate program, are a big step in the right direction. But there’s no reason to stop there.

As the price becomes increasingly affordable, with the cost of installation dropping by more than 60 percent over the past 10 years, solar is becoming accessible for building owners. From 2004 to 2014, the number of megawatts installed nationwide jumped from 500 to 20,000 — enough to power more than 4 million homes.

And with the help of local governments, we can achieve even greater solar progress.

As CPS Energy and San Antonio make great solar strides, other cities in Texas continue to push ahead by adding new incentives and breaking down barriers to solar.

A dozen Texas counties have adopted a program known as Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE. The PACE program allows for energy projects like solar to be financed through property taxes. This provides solar access to all kinds of energy users, from large industrial buildings to multifamily homes, in a way that’s affordable and manageable.

Nearby Travis, Hays and Nueces are among the counties that have adopted PACE and begun to reap the many benefits. Bringing PACE to Bexar County would help even more San Antonio residents “go solar” while continuing its rise in national ranks.

San Antonio doesn’t have to settle for seventh place. We have an opportunity to become a national leader. Bexar County elected leaders should adopt PACE and give its residents more tools to expand the growth of solar power in ways that other Texans already enjoy.

In 2011, CPS Energy set a bold goal for solar, and we’ve already hit it. It’s time for the mayor, our City Council and CPS to set a new goal: Make San Antonio No. 1 in America for solar.

Other cities across the country have already made bold commitments to solar, and San Antonio can’t afford to fall behind. We must capitalize on the solar momentum already in place and, with a push from elected officials, lift San Antonio to first place.

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