One last shot for Texas solar?

The 11th-hour death of Texas’ solar energy incentive bill at the end of the legislative session was a pretty big blow for that industry and environmentalists, but one small bit of the legislation may yet see the light of day.
Gov. Rick Perry has said he will call a special session to deal with some unfinished business, namely reauthorization of some key state agencies that are set to go into sunset mode in 2010. What is included in the session is largely up to the Governor, but Raymond Walker, general counsel for Houston-based Standard Renewable Energy, says he hope to include the part of the solar bill that prevents homeowners’ associations from having unlimited authority to prevent homeowners from putting solar panels on their homes.

solar_panels (BILLY SMITH II/CHRONICLE)

It’s a modest target after all the high hopes companies like SRE had for the session, but Walker said his company believes it lost as much as $500,000 in new solar installation business in the last year due to blanket rejections from HOAs. And it doesn’t have the added baggage of imposing new fees on consumers. SRE is also offering a rebate on new projects in an effort to keep momentum going.
There are two routes the bill could take: get attached to one of the bills Gov. Perry allows into the special session (which Walker said might happen as early as July) or get submitted on its own.
Sen. Rodney Ellis is proposing a renewed push for the renewable energy legislation in the special session as well, in part as a response to Perry’s warnings that federal climate change laws are a threat to “family farms, job-creating factories and even large buildings such as hospitals and churches.” (yes, he really said that).
According to Ellis:

“Texas became rich from fossil fuels, but we could easily lose our position as an energy leader because of fossilized thinking. We could create far more wealth and jobs from wind and solar energy, but only we aggressively pursue clean energy opportunities. Unfortunately, we missed a golden opportunity this session one the governor should address if he calls a special session.

One might expect Perry to be OK with this notion, however. He’s actually used the state’s leadership position in wind power as proof of the state’s ability to embrace change, and in a statement welcoming a new cleantech organization to Texas this week he called it “yet another sign of our state’s leadership position in developing clean technologies.”
Does the rhetoric stop there or will it continue with more action in the special session?

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