Solar leaders decry budget cut 

click to enlarge In 2008, The City launched the GoSolarSF program, which has since spent $18 million on incentives for the installation of solar panels — creating jobs and boosting San Francisco’s clean energy portfolio. But next fiscal year, city funding will reach an all-time low.
  • In 2008, The City launched the GoSolarSF program, which has since spent $18 million on incentives for the installation of solar panels — creating jobs and boosting San Francisco’s clean energy portfolio. But next fiscal year, city funding will reach an all-time low.

Several solar energy companies that made business decisions based on a city solar incentive program have warned Mayor Ed Lee that reducing of that subsidy could darken their industry’s future.

In 2008, The City launched the GoSolarSF program, which has since spent $18 million on incentives for the installation of solar panels — creating jobs and boosting San Francisco’s clean energy portfolio. But next fiscal year, city funding will reach an all-time low.

In a letter sent to Lee on Monday, nine companies said the decrease in solar investment could prove devastating to San Francisco’s leadership position in the clean technology industry. Lee’s two-year budget proposal allocates just $2 million a year to GoSolarSF, an all-time low funding level.

“A major impetus in our decision to locate and grow our companies in San Francisco, where we collectively employ over 500 workers, was policy innovation such as the GoSolarSF Program,” said the letter, which was signed by the leaders of companies such as Sunrun, First Solar and One Block Off the Grid.

“We are concerned that proposed cuts from GoSolarSF’s historic $5 million funding level … will severely undermine this progress and negatively impact San Francisco’s clean technology leadership and economic development,” the letter added. “We understand that this year, for the first time since the program began, the City had to turn away homeowners and businesses seeking to go solar. This year’s even more dramatic cut means funding will run out even sooner.”

The GoSolarSF program — which offers subsidies to residents, businesses and nonprofits — has led to 1,826 solar installations, or 5.75 megawatts of energy, and created 86 jobs, according to the supervising San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. The agency said the cut was necessary given its other needs.

“Like our energy efficiency and renewable energy generation budgets, the budget for GoSolarSF has also been cut,” said SFPUC spokesman Charles Sheehan. “These budget cuts are necessary to pay for capital improvement repairs at our hydroelectric powerhouses and throughout our transmission system. If we don’t prioritize funding for the maintenance of our power infrastructure, we won’t be able to generate and transmit energy.”

The companies called on Lee to allocate $5 million to the program “to resume San Francisco’s momentum as the premier location for cleantech policy innovation and economic development.”

Lee’s spokeswoman Christine Falvey said the proposed budget “still includes a significant investment in solar and we will continue to work with the industry to make sure San Franciscans get access to alternative energy sources.”

Lee’s budget proposal remains under review by the Board of Supervisors.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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