California Regulators Unveil $3.2bil Solar Power Plan

Sacramento - The California PUC unveiled plans to install 1 million solar power panels on roofs across the state in an aggressive move to curb the state's dependence on hydrocarbon fuels at a cost of $3.2 billion.

The California Public Utilities Commission is expected to adopt the solar power proposal in January. PUC officials said that by installing the solar power panels, the state expected it could generate 3,000 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 2.4 million homes.

If the PUC adopts the solar power progam California would become the third-largest producer of solar power in the world behind Japan and Germany. California currently has 100 solar power panels in use.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's office released the news late Tuesday, saying the "California Solar Initiative" revived a solar energy plan that widened the state's use of solar power over an 11-year span.

The California state Assembly stalled a bill submitted by Schwarzenegger's staff earlier this year through stuffing it with amendments that in the end kept the energy bill from being approved. Schwarzenegger has continually accused the state legislators of not working for the good of Californians since he was elected. Scwarzenegger had ran on a platform of promises in getting the California lawmakers to work together, so far he has not succeeded.

Customers of California's investor-owned utilities would pay most of the costs of the program through their utility rates.

The utilities - PG&E Corp.'s (NYSE: PCG) Pacific Gas & Electric unit, Edison International's (NYSE: EIX) Southern California Edison unit, and Sempra Energy's (NYSE: SRE) San Diego Gas & Electric subsidiary - would gain from a solar power initiative by lowering the demand for more power plants needing to be built.

The utilities have not commented on the PUC's plans.

According to Environment California, the average residential utility bill for Californian's would go up by 65 cents per month over the 11 years of the solar power program.

The environmental advocacy group said that if the PUC adopts the solar power plan before it, "for every megawatt of solar power installed, up to 7 jobs are created, a 7-fold increase over the number of jobs created from building the equivalent capacity in natural gas power plants."