Calif. solar energy plan approved

The $3.2 billion plan aims to install 3,000 megawatts of solar energy on the rooftops of a million homes and businesses.

A $3.2 billion solar energy plan was approved in California on Thursday to create one of the country's largest such programs.

Under the 10-year plan, called the "California Solar Initiative," the life of current state subsidizes will be extended to provide a million residents and businesses with rooftop solar panels, or 3,000 megawatts of solar energy, across the state.

Supporters of the plan believe that it will save state residents as much as $2.9 billion in energy costs over the next 10 years, factoring in a traditional rise in electricity prices over that time. It will also mitigate the effects of global warming and create jobs for state residents, supporters say.

"Electricity generation is the single largest cause of global warming," said Adam Browning, director of operations of the Vote Solar Initiative. "It's critical that we take action to jumpstart the transition to clean, renewable energy."

Some financial analysts believe the program will have little short-term effect on California solar providers because they are at high production through this year. But long term, the initiative should build a stable solar market in California.

"This initiative should allow California, and hence the U.S., to capture a share of the global solar installation market, and may favor (such) companies in the United States," Jesse Pichel, senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, wrote in a research note.

Of course, it's not without risks. Those could include raw material shortages, operational missteps, or the possibility that the federal government would reduce incentives for solar power, according to Pichel.

Still, the plan "may pave the way for other states to pass similar initiatives that spur long-term solar industry demand," he wrote.

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