California Environmental Justice Alliance

Building Healthy Communities from the Ground up

California’s largest investment in solar building resilience for 2021

This past year Californians were dealt historic wildfires, extreme heat, and power blackouts, all in the midst of a pandemic. While these intersecting public health and climate crises have impacted all Californians, they are not equalizing forces. The state’s most vulnerable communities have endured the greatest harm from the widening racial, socioeconomic, and health inequities of COVID-19 and lack of resilient energy infrastructure. 

Across California, our members from San Diego to the Bay Area have seen existing community infrastructure become a vital social resource for energy resilience in times of need.

In Oakland, CBE offered masks during smoke events, in Richmond and Oakland APEN opened up their office to refrigerate medication and food for people impacted by shut off events, and in San Diego, EHC outreached to community members to provide information on where to find cool zones during heat waves.

Our existing community institutions and organizations prove themselves time and time again as trusted resources during unexpected events. To be resilient, we need to have spaces that people can easily access. Therefore, it is more pressing than ever to scale up community-driven models that simultaneously address current conditions alongside the climate crisis, giving us our best chance of weathering the storms we’re facing today, and to stabilize our communities for the long haul. 

Image: The RYSE Center is a youth-led community center in Richmond.

The Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH) program is an investment in clean energy serving low-income and disadvantaged communities, and a key strategy to building in-home resilience for California’s renters. In the absence of statewide rent and utility debt relief or sustained basic income, solar energy can provide critical financial relief to Californians and subsequently make it easier for people to stay housed and shelter in place.

In its first year, SOMAH has received 158 applications, representing 6.3 MW of new solar for renters; 29% of these applications are also located in disadvantaged communities (or DACs), benefiting those who are most impacted by institutionalized racism and environmental pollution. Once constructed, all of these SOMAH projects will benefit Californians for decades by:

  • Providing savings for nearly 32,000 tenant units
  • Directing 90% of the savings directly to renters
  • Creating over 700 job training opportunities

In addition to SOMAH, there are several other statewide programs like the Low-Income Weatherization Program (LIWP), Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP), Community Solar-Green Tariff (CS-GT), and others that, when working in conjunction in our communities, puts us on a path toward a more resilient future. 

That’s why CEJA supports utilizing the infrastructure, resources, and programs that we already have to bring EJ Community Resilience Hubs to our communities. Making these programs streamlined and accessible for infrastructure that exists in our communities, like affordable multifamily housing, not only reduces barriers to participation for the projects and properties that would have the highest impact, but also is a smart and effective use of state resources  and investments in these programs. 

CEJA would love to hear from you: how do you envision your community and home becoming more resilient in years to come?

Email gwen@caleja.org to share your ideas!