CA Legislators Back Proposal that Would Expand Solar Access to Disadvantaged Communities, Help Meet State Climate Goals

September 29th, 2021

Legislative letter to Public Utility Commission adds to growing list of advocates supporting a strong community solar program for California

San Francisco, CA (September 29, 2021) – A group of California state lawmakers yesterday sent a letter to the California Public Utility Commission (Commission) supporting a proposal to kickstart community solar projects in the state. The proposal submitted by the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA) in California’s Net Energy Metering (NEM) proceeding, would establish a program that compensates subscribers to community solar projects based on the value of a project’s generation at the time it’s provided to the grid. The “Net Value Billing Tariff” proposal would help spawn a robust and cost-effective community solar market that would greatly increase access to solar energy for disadvantaged communities while also providing home builders with more affordable compliance options for renewable energy mandates, key factors in the legislators’ support for the proposal.

Community solar projects are small solar arrays located within a community where multiple customers can subscribe and receive a credit on their utility bill for their share of the power that is produced, just as if the panels were on their own roof.

“Clean energy options remain out of reach for many low-income Californians and those living in disadvantaged communities,” said Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino). “The Net Value Billing Tariff would address several important needs for viable community renewable energy projects in California, specifically ensuring that disadvantaged communities and low-income residents are able to directly participate in and benefit from the transition to renewable energy.”

More than 50 percent of American households don’t have access to solar power because they either rent, live in a multi-tenant building, have roofs unable to host a solar system, or live in a service territory of a utility that won’t allow it. Through community solar, people can be connected to a local solar installation that would provide subscribers with equal access to the economic and environmental benefits of solar generation.

Signers of the letter include State Senator Connie Leyva (20th District, Chino); State Senator Anna Caballero (12th District, Merced); State Senator Scott Wiener (11th District, San Francisco); State Assemblymember David Chiu (17th District, San Francisco); and State Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (15th District, Oakland).

The legislators are the newest addition to the growing list of advocates who support the Net Value Billing Tariff because it is a cost-effective way to drive the development of a community solar plus storage market that will expand equity and solar access to underserved communities, save consumers money, create jobs, and help meet state energy and climate mandates. Up to 50% of Californians currently cannot access solar energy for various reasons, including the up-front costs of rooftop, or not being able to put panels on the roofs of their dwellings because they are renters.

“Going forward, community solar will be a critical tool needed for compliance with the CEC’s renewable energy mandates for residential and soon, non-residential construction,” said Chris Ochoa, Senior Counsel for Codes, Regulatory and Legislative Affairs for the California Building Industry Association. “There are currently no viable community solar options for meeting these mandates for the majority of the state, and CCSA’s proposal would provide a much-needed solution.”

In addition to the California homebuilders, support for CCSA’s value-based community solar proposal also includes The Utility Reform Network (TURN), Coalition of California Utility Employees (CUE), Public Advocates Office, California Low-Income Consumer Coalition (CLICC) and Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), all of whom have submitted briefs to the California PUC backing the merits of the Net Value Billing Tariff.

A recent report from national grid modeling experts Vibrant Clean Energy found that enabling the continued growth of local, distributed solar can save California $120 billion by 2050 and that community solar is an essential ingredient in the distributed energy mix along with rooftop and battery storage to build the lowest cost grid. The addition of community solar helps to drive the lowest-cost, most efficient grid for everyone, including underserved communities that have traditionally been left behind in the clean energy economy.

“California has long been a dominant solar energy state, but community solar has been the missing piece of the puzzle in terms of expanding access to clean local solar energy to all and building the lowest cost grid,” said Charlie Coggeshall, California Director for CCSA. “We hope the Commissioners will recognize the value community solar can bring to helping California meet its energy and climate goals in an equitable manner that is fair for all ratepayers.”

The Commission is expected to issue a decision on the current NEM proposal including community solar values before the end of this year.

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About Coalition for Community Solar Access

The Coalition for Community Solar Access is a national Coalition of businesses and non-profits 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.