CA Lawmakers Back Nation’s Most Equitable, Innovative, Community Renewable Program in a Key Energy Vote

April 27th, 2022

AB 2316 would create a new program to expand renewable energy access, such as community solar power paired with storage, for millions of Californians.

The program would prioritize benefits for low-income Californians, provide utility bill savings, and create an innovative community renewable program with storage requirements for community solar to increase the grid’s reliability and resiliency against blackouts, all while avoiding ratepayer costs.

(Sacramento, CA) — Advocates for the environment, solar and wind energy, utility ratepayers, and environmental justice cheered today’s passage of AB 2316 by California’s State Assembly Committee on Utilities and Energy. The bill would establish a new state program to expand access to renewable energy, such as community solar power paired with storage, while avoiding new ratepayer costs, to overcome access barriers impacting nearly half of Californians who rent or have low incomes.

“As we face increasing heat waves, blackouts, and drought, working class communities need cleaner and more affordable energy. Without the capital to pay for upfront costs, and lacking home ownership, low-income Californians and renters are often cut off from the benefits of renewable energy and reduced utility bills,” said Alexis Sutterman, Energy Equity Program Manager at the California Environmental Justice Alliance. “Community renewable energy is an opportunity to ensure that working class communities of color can receive the health and economic benefits of clean energy in their neighborhoods. AB 2316 would create a community renewable energy program to prioritize low-income residents and low-income service organizations. By providing over half of its renewable energy projects to low-income subscribers, AB 2316 will help to meet the state’s clean energy and air quality commitments and advance energy justice.”

“By storing more solar power and using it during flex alerts, we can reduce our dependence on peaker power plants that concentrate even more pollution in disadvantaged communities,” said Susannah Churchill, Western Regional Director at Vote Solar. “Climate change is making heat waves more frequent, intense, and deadly in California. Community solar paired with storage can provide a clean, resilient, and affordable power supply when the grid is most strained, energy prices are at their highest, and air conditioning provides a vital lifeline.”

Community solar projects are small scale solar installations typically built on landfills, former industrial sites, or small parcels of private land. Customers can sign up as subscribers to lower-cost solar power, paying a monthly fee and then earning credits on their electrical bills, or customers purchase shares of a community solar project equal to their energy needs. 

“By passing this bill, California can create the most innovative and equitable community solar program in the nation,” said Charlie Coggeshall, Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at the Coalition for Community Solar Access, sponsor of the bill. “Community solar gives California a chance to widen renewable access and address a big energy equity gap.  Community solar is a proven, practical solution for renters and common situations where a roof is either too small or too shaded to be suitable for solar panels.”

Supported by a diverse coalition of organizations including the California Environmental Justice Alliance, the Coalition of California Utility Workers, and The Utility Reform Network (TURN), AB 2316:

  • Dedicates at least 51% of the power generated by each community solar project to benefit low-income customers or service organizations
  • Includes energy storage requirements on community solar to increase power grid reliability by providing clean energy to the grid when it’s needed most to reduce blackouts  
  • Compensates subscribers based on the time-differentiated value of the project’s generation
  • Provides accountability for results and transparency through routine reports to lawmakers on program growth and low-income subscriber participation.
  • Ensures strong prevailing wages for workers
  • Helps builders meet state building code requirements mandating solar systems for new residential construction as of 2020 and solar systems paired with storage in the construction of multi-family housing and nonresidential construction starting in 2022.

Community solar is taking root in a third of states. The Biden Administration wants community solar to reach 5 million households by 2025 and create $1 billion in energy bill savings. AB 2316 now awaits a hearing in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.

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The Coalition for Community Solar Access is a national coalition of businesses and nonprofits working to expand customer choice and access to solar for all American households and businesses through community solar. Our mission is to empower every American energy consumer with the option to choose local, clean and affordable community solar. We work with customers, utilities, local stakeholders and policymakers to develop and implement policies and best practices that ensure community solar programs provide a win, win, win for all, starting with the customer. For more information, visit https://www.communitysolaraccess.org and follow the group on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.