California utility commission recharges Governator’s solar energy plan

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (R) Million Solar Roofs initiative — a casualty of partisan squabbling in the California legislature’s last session — has been partially resurrected. On Tuesday, the California Public Utilities Commission responded to a groundswell of public support with a $3.2 billion plan to increase the state’s total solar output from about 100 megawatts now to 3,000 megawatts by 2017, eliminating the need for six natural-gas-fired power plants. State officials say it would be the largest solar initiative in the country, possibly the world. Residential energy bills would go up a modest 55 cents or so a month on average, says the PUC, but improving solar technologies should ultimately drive costs down. Solar proponents say they’re happy with the plan, which could be implemented in the next few months. “This program has the potential to make California the Saudi Arabia of solar power,” said clean-power advocate Bernadette Del Chiaro. Only without the burqas.