The American Southwest is a mixed bag of solar opportunity in which Arizona's excellent incentives are outstanding partly because they stand alone. Nevada, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico have similarly sun-drenched climates but offer uneven encouragement to residents to install solar panels on their homes and businesses. With California blazing the solar incentive trail just next door...what gives? Partly, these states--like many others throughout the country--lack proper motivation. And by "proper motivation" I mean high electric rates. When the per-kilowatt hour cost of electricity is below average, it is incredibly difficult to make the electricity generated by solar panels cost competitive. There are other factors, of course: state legislatures that can't spare the money from already stretched budgets, or won't spare it due to interests in traditional energy markets, or constituencies that haven't pulled together to demand a shift towards clean energy.
Against the backdrop of Washington's furor about climate change legislation this week, Texas made the very welcome decision to jump into the solar game by voting overwhelmingly in favor of funding a state-wide solar rebate. A monthly surcharge on all electric bills ($0.20 individual, $2 small business, $20 corporate) will pave the way for the $500 million initiative. The rebate will pay for up to one-third of residential solar installations out of a dedicated $30 million per year. Another $70 million per year--at least--will go towards commercial projects.