The California legislature is considering whether to lift caps on net metering, a key policy that allows solar system owners to get full credit for generating solar electricity. As legislators consider this policy choice, they may want to look into how solar benefits California’s public schools–who are getting into the solar business in a big way.  If fighting the climate crisis isn’t motivation enough, and if creating new jobs or establishing leadership in the next global industrial revolution doesn’t float your boat, then how about supporting solar for the sake of schools?

The federal government has made special financing options available for governments through Community Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBS).   In 2009, California got a huge portion ($640 million–80% of the total) of the national CREBS allocations, and much of it is going to solar on schools.

The allocations for government entities are here (pdf).

Note that the majority are solar PV projects, many on schools:

  • The Los Angeles Unified School District won 90 projects, for a total of $120,510,000.
  • The San Diego Unified School District won $74 million.
  • Three CA higher education institutions won: UCSD ($15M), UCB ($3.8SM) and  SDSU ($2.4M)

According to this LA Times article, LAUSD would save $24 million a year on its utility bill by going solar.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, for example, estimates it will save $20 million to $24 million annually on utility fees paid to LADWP and So Cal Edison once it has installed 50 megawatts of solar power on several L.A. schools. LAUSD is currently spending $85 million annually on electricity.
“What we’re trying to accomplish is savings to the utility fund,” said Randy Britt, director of sustainability initiatives for LAUSD, which will receive $120 million in federal government Community Renewable Energy Bonds to help it go solar. “Those savings to the general fund are dollars that can be allocated for other things, such as payroll.”

Irvine Unified School district is pursuing a different financing approach that will save $17 million over the next 20 years (article here).

None of this will be installed without net metering.  Net metering is critical to a solar project’s economics, allowing school districts to reduce their utility bills and hedge against future rate increases.

C’mon, Legislature.  Do it for the small schoolchildren.