Why Sacramento Green-Tech Solar Boom Isn’t Here Yet

A year ago, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson in remarks in a speech, said “let’s use solar to transform Sacramento into the Emerald Valley”.  As the year draws to a close and the economy remains sluggish, Sacramento leaders insist the potential for a green-tech boom is there, but admit the results, so far, are mixed. Having said that, we would like to point out that the slow growth of solar jobs is  not for a lack of trying on Mayor Johnson’s part. 

Economic uncertainty and the slowing of financing is slowing the growth of solar installation. Either homeowners have the resources and they don’t want to remove those resources from wherever they’re safe-harbored right now, or the solar loan is not as attractive as they want it to be. So they sit.

It’s kind of like the chicken-and-egg quandary. The economy can’t recover without new jobs. Solar businesses could grow if homeowners could get better solar loans. A state wide program called PACE was intended to help with financing. It would’ve allowed homeowners to repay up-front loans through an annual surcharge on their property taxes, but it stalled thanks to Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac. (Ironic isn’t it since they are both owned by the federal government.)

Political uncertainty and lack of venture capital are also have some blame for slowing solar growth. Solar companies appear to have waited for the outcome of the governor’s race, and to see whether voters suspended California’s greenhouse gas emissions law. Finally, there’s one area where the Sacramento region faces a clear disadvantage compared to the Bay Area and Southern California.

Sanjay Varshney is the dean of the business school at Sacramento State: Varshney: “The green-tech solar inductry requires tremendous infusion of private capital. We are not able to do that in Sacramento because we don’t have as much venture capital available for the solar sector.” Sacramento does have its strengths. Local solar boosters point to progressive utilities like SMUD and PG&E; strong solar job training programs at UC Davis, Sacramento State and the region’s community colleges; and the influence of being in the state capital. But Varshney says a state report out last month shows less than three percent of the Sacramento-area’s total jobs search are green solar jobs half a point below the state average.

Varshney: “It shows that we are not being very competitive with solar compared to the rest of the state and we are not being competitive compared to the rest of the country.”

Sacramento mayor’s green initiative will be unveiled at his “regional action plan” at his State of the City address next month. A spokesperon for Johnson said volunteers have spent thousands of hours laying the framework for solar energy green-tech growth in Sacramento. It is encouraging to see Sacramento civic leaders keep pounding away at the creation of solar jobs. California Governer Jerry Brown will take office in a few weeks also giving the solar industry in Sacramento a boost. Source; Capital Radio