CA State Assembly to Vote on Nation’s Most Equitable Community Renewable Energy Program

May 23rd, 2022

AB 2316 expands clean, renewable energy access for millions of Californians who rent or have low incomes and are not served by the state’s existing programs.

(Sacramento, CA) — California’s State Assembly Appropriations Committee passed AB 2316 by Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego), a bill establishing a new community renewable energy program to overcome clean energy access barriers impacting nearly half of Californians who rent or have low incomes — all while avoiding new ratepayer costs. This priority bill for environment, solar and wind energy, ratepayer, and environmental justice advocates now heads to the Assembly Floor for a vote by May 27.

“California has led the nation on solar but fallen short on community renewable energy, leaving behind a huge swath of customers and undermining the state’s ability to achieve its equity and climate change policy goals. With community renewables taking off in other states and best practices available, this reform is long overdue in California,” said Charlie Coggeshall, Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at the Coalition for Community Solar Access, sponsor of the bill. “By passing this bill, lawmakers can close significant clean energy access gaps with a cost-effective solution that can be built out at scale.”

Community renewable projects are smaller scale installations typically built on landfills, former industrial sites, or private parcels of land. Customers can sign up as subscribers, and in turn receive credits on their electricity bills based on their share of the project’s generation. It is a unique way to enable broader access to customers, regardless of whether they rent or own a home, to directly participate in and benefit from distributed renewable energy.

In an op-ed urging passage of AB 2316, Matthew Freedman, Staff Attorney at The Utility Reform Network, and Michael Colvin, Director of the California Energy Program at Environmental Defense Fund, write: “The time has come to step up our commitment to clean energy and a decarbonized electricity system. AB 2316 offers a valuable tool to achieve these goals efficiently with the benefits focused on vulnerable customers and renters — two populations that have been left behind by current policies. Lawmakers should endorse this effort to unlock consumer-friendly options that provide tangible benefits to subscribers, avoid new rate increases for all customers, and accelerate progress towards the state’s 100% clean energy goal.”  

AB 2316:

  • Ensures at least 51% of subscribers to power generated by each community solar project are  low-income customers or service organizations
  • 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 2023.

Community solar is taking root in a third of states. Across the country community solar generates over 5 gigawatts of power, which is enough energy to power 3.75 million homes. In a few short years, New York State has built enough community solar capacity to power 200,000 homes. The Biden Administration wants community solar to reach 5 million households by 2025 and create $1 billion in energy bill savings.

 

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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.