California Environmental Justice Alliance

Building Healthy Communities from the Ground up

CPUC fails to take immediate action to include EJ in shared renewables program

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Commissioners have one more chance to get it right

The California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) continues to drag their feet when it comes to ensuring low-income communities and communities of color get their share of renewable energy. While recent news reports have highlighted the CPUC’s side-by-side working relationship with big utilities, the Commission is also failing to address the energy needs of our state’s most polluted and vulnerable communities. On January 29, 2015, the CPUC postponed a decision on major components of a ground-breaking program that will help bring renewables into overburdened communities, the SB 43 Green Tariff Shared Renewables Program. The program includes a 100-megawatt program for low-income communities and communities of color to access renewable energy when they otherwise would not have access to it. The legislation that made this program possible passed in 2013. Senator Wolk’s bill included a clear commitment to and carve-out for environmental justice (“EJ”) communities. Instead of acting immediately and implementing CEJA’s expert testimony on how to best structure the program to uphold this commitment, the CPUC voted to delay finalizing the program for several months. The success of this pilot program should not, and indeed cannot, wait.  In fact, the program sunsets on January 1, 2019, so the CPUC needs to act quickly to get it off the ground. The next round of negotiations on how to best get shared renewables into EJ communities will start at the end of February. If the CPUC wants to ensure shared renewables get into EJ communities – as they have been directed by the legislature – the program must:

  • Be marketed to low-income communities
  • Accurately define “most impacted and disadvantaged” communities
  • Ensure that “local” projects are truly local, and not far away from the most impacted EJ communities
  • Focus on affordability for low-income communities
  • Take additional proactive steps to ensure the successful implementation of the 100 MW environmental justice program

The next phase will be a critical time to see whether the CPUC will stand with environmental justice or, as we have seen over and over, cave to utility opposition. We believe the EJ program must be implemented as soon as possible, and CEJA will be working hard to see its success. Contact Strela Cervas for more information: scervas [at] caleja.org