Clean, affordable solar power is delivering health and economic benefits across California, and we need to ensure that those benefits are felt by all. Families who rent and those with low credit scores or limited financial means currently face real barriers to solar participation. California has some of the most aggressive climate and energy goals in the nation and this year we are proud to sponsor two bills that can put us on track to meet those goals with equity at the center!
AB 523: Equity in Clean Energy Investments
AB 523 by Assemblymember Eloise Gomez Reyes would dedicate a 25% of the available Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) funds for clean energy projects in disadvantaged communities and an additional 10% to low-income households. The bill will ensure that low-income communities throughout California have equal opportunity and access to energy efficient services and program that will improve their wellbeing. It will help remove many of the barriers that continue to limit residents from fully participating in energy programs.
Currently, clean energy programs like EPIC are not reaching the communities that need them the most. A study released by California’s Energy Commission in December 2014 identified that while low income and disadvantaged communities financially support the state’s extensive clean energy programs and spend a larger percentage of their household income on utility costs, most are not yet able to participate in those programs. For example, in 2015 only 14% of EPIC funds went toward projects benefiting disadvantaged communities even though they make up 25% of the state’s population.
AB 523 will help us move away from the use of dirty energy, like fossil fuel to clean and renewable energy that will lead to the improvement of our environment and health. These investments will also promote job development and economic growth throughout California.
AB 523 passed the Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee with a 9-2 vote and Assembly Appropriations Committee 12-4. It now moves on to the Assembly Floor!
SB 366: Renewable Energy For All
SB 366 by Senator Connie Leyva expands renewable energy and increases savings for low-income customers. It improves and provides an equity focus to the Green Tariff Shared Renewables Program established by SB 43 by expanding available megawatts for shared renewable energy projects located in environmental justice communities.
SB 366 will unlock access to clean energy for disadvantaged communities through the state’s existing shared solar program. While the Green Tariff Solar Renewables (GTSR) program seeks to promote solar development and environmental benefits, there is an additional fee for subscribers, which puts those benefits out of reach for low-income residents. That extra cost is a financial burden to customers who can least afford – but would most benefit – from renewable energy access. SB 366 aims to improve the GTSR program by ensuring that it financially benefits low-income customers and has a strong environmental justice focus.
Low-income households have an average energy burden that is approximately three times higher than high-income households and pay an average of 25-40% of their income on utility bills alone. Making renewable energy more affordable ensures low-income customers receive a meaningful bill savings. This legislation will help remove many of the barriers that continue to limit residents from fully participating in energy programs. Currently, the utilities have signed over 100 MW of contracts for new shared solar projects under the GTSR program, but only 2 MW of those projects will be located in environmental justice communities. SB 366 is a renewed approach to improving the program by encouraging solar deployment in EJ communities.
SB 366 will ensure that low-income communities throughout California have equal opportunity and access to energy efficient services and programs that will improve their wellbeing.
SB 336 passed Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee with a 11-0 vote. It will be heard in Senate Appropriations by May 26th.