sun over solar panelRight now, if you want to embrace the solar-power revolution, you have to have a roof and a lot of money — or at the very least, a roof and a good credit score, so you can finance a solar system or work with a leasing company like SolarCity.

A bill advancing through the California legislature would change all that and make it easy for anyone who pays a utility bill to become a solar customer. Senate Bill 843 has passed the state Senate and just got approval from a key committee in the Assembly. As GigaOM reports:

The bill … aims to enable people who don’t own homes, or own homes that don’t have suitable roofs for solar panels, to buy clean power and offset their utility bills. They could sign contracts with owners of solar power projects for a portion of the power produced, and the amount they pay for would show up as credits on their utility bills. The proposed program would be available not only to consumers but also businesses who are customers of the three big investor-owned utilities.

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Susan Kraemer at PV Insider explains further:

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Solar developers would sign up interested subscribers and then build neighborhood solar projects on nearby open space, industrial buildings or big box store rooftops to supply their electricity. … It could catapult the development of distributed solar even more effectively than feed-in tariffs did for Germany or Spain — but at no cost or risk.

Tom Price of solar investment firm CleanPath helped draft the legislation. “What’s important and transformative about this bill is that for the first time, it allows everybody in California, regardless of income or home ownership status, to choose to buy renewable energy,” he says. “Considering that 75 percent of residents and businesses in this state currently don’t have that option, imagine what kind of impact we’ll see.”

Price predicts that the bill will ultimately be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D).  If so, it will be yet another reminder that California, were it a country of its own, would be not only the ninth-largest economy in the world but a green policy pioneer to rival those show-offs in Scandinavia.

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