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Senate committee gives green light to solar energy funding bill

By REBECCA DOLAN, MEDILL NEWS SERVICE, Written for UPI   |   July 21, 2010 at 3:14 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, July 21 (UPI) -- A bill providing funds for solar energy systems found support in a U.S. Senate committee Wednesday, casting a bit of sunshine on solar energy supporters.

The bill, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Bernard Sanders, Ind-Vt., would require the secretary of Energy to provide states with money to finance rebates, loans and other incentives for the purchase of solar energy systems, for consumers and businesses alike.

"If we are serious about transforming our energy system we have to walk the walk and not just talk the talk," said Sanders, who mentioned creating new jobs and reducing dependency on foreign oil among the reasons to make changes to the nation's energy system.

The goal of the legislation is to install solar energy systems on 10 million properties by the end of 2021, giving it the short name of the"10 Million Solar Roofs Act of 2010."

To accomplish this task, $250 million is allotted for fiscal year 2012 with the addition of "such sums as are necessary" between 2013 and 2021.

Voicing concern about the measure, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, questioned the accuracy of these figures, saying she was given an estimate putting costs in the billions.

"I would agree that the goal to advance and move in the direction of more substantial solar energy is a good one," Murkowski said. But, "we do need to be critical as we examine what the cost will be."

Senators also questioned whether the proposed legislation would be a burden because mandating more, expensive energy would mean somebody along the line will have to pay.

Sanders said Murkowski's estimate is inflated. But he cautioned that there is a need for investment in solar energy to drive down its costs.

He also reminded the committee that the measure isn't a mandate.

The committee voted along party lines to pass the bill on to the full Senate for consideration.

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