If y\u2019all are old enough to remember President--if not Governor--Ronald Reagan, you can conjure up the concept: \u201ctrickle down theory.\u201d That is, if the richest levels of U.S. society are given tax breaks, they will use that money not for new yachts, but to reinvest in business. The idea was that tax breaks would cause corporate America to hire more people and pay them, well, something. A little tiff between the California Public Utilities Commission and the consumer group The Utility Reform Network last week reminded me of that economic theory. Regulators are trying to implement the state\u2019s Million Solar Roofs (aka California Solar Initiative). The consumer group calls it \u201cMillion Solar Roofs for Millionaires.\u201d The state\u2019s concept is to take stress off the grid and put power where it is used. It\u2019s also to reduce the demand for fossil-fueled power. Subsidies granted by the state are seen as a ratepayer investment in California\u2019s energy future. While some of the money to implement the Million Solar project--essentially to get 3,000 MW built over 10 years--is set aside for low income and multi-family dwellings, most of the $3.3 billion subsidy goes to those who can afford to install photovoltaics. Ten percent of those subsidies, by law, are set aside for low-income family and multi-family installations. In November 2007, the CPUC ordered $108 million to be spent on low-income installations. A typical installation is about a $10,000 outlay for a single residence; more for big commercial sites or apartments. I\u2019ve known a few people who\u2019ve gone through the major permitting hassle, as well as the cost, to install solar on their roofs. They\u2019re hardly millionaires. They are middle class, perhaps upper middle, who have a conscious. They\u2019ve spent years going through the local governments, flaky installers, and general grief, to put photovoltaics on their property. Some are lured by the prospect of state subsidies. From what I hear, many don\u2019t even bother. What the state has then is the middle to upper classes installing solar. What the middle and upper classes get from their utilities are electric consumption credits. What the state gets from that is distributed generation. The few hundred MW that\u2019s been installed since the Million Solar program began doesn\u2019t keep up with growing demand. Yet, if you consider that if, indeed, 3,000 MW eventually gets built (and I assume more that aren\u2019t under the state subsidy program), that could replace most of Diablo Canyon and San Onofre nuclear power plants, or avoid building six new fossil-fueled plants. What lower-income people get out of it is more grid reliability and the potential for not-quite-so-high rates in the future. What lower-income people don\u2019t get is the thrill of not paying a utility bill every month. For instance, my dentist, who is mid-upper class, lives out in the fog belt of San Francisco. A few years ago he got some Joe to install solar. While my mouth was full of metal objects, he railed about how difficult it was to get past the permitting process; that it took him two years just to get to the point of installation. He wasn\u2019t even considering subsidies. At my check up last week, I found that he\u2019s thrilled about the installation. He figures it will pay back before the 13 years he\u2019d expected. And, thrilled again not to have to pay the local utility. It is a trade off. The reality of the situation is that the \u201chaves\u201d have access to capital (what there is left of it circulating) and the \u201chave nots\u201d don\u2019t. While I\u2019m loathe to share anything with the former President--in fact I moved off grid to a place where no utilities at all were available when I believed he had his finger on the nuclear trigger--I can imagine that California\u2019s Million Solar Initiative does fit into trickle down theory.