The energy future of California is focused on building capacity among all communities to locally produce clean energy. This type of decentralized energy is highly efficient, puts energy production in the hands of local residents, and creates green jobs. To support this vision, a decade ago the California Solar Initiative (CSI) was launched to expand state support for solar technologies and to create a million solar roofs. This initiative had an approved budget that exceeded $2 billion (2007-2016) and set a goal of installing approximately 1,940 MW of new solar generation capacity.
Despite the rapid growth in solar facilitated by the CSI, solar installations have largely bypassed low-income renters and disadvantaged communities. Less that 5% of the households with incomes of less than $40,000 have been served and the Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing (MASH) program has served less than 6,500 low-income renters through 2014. This level of effort is unacceptable.
To right this solar deficit, Everyday Energy is working with the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA) and the California Solar Energy Industry Association (CALSEIA) to build a coalition of affordable housing providers, low-income advocacy organizations, and members of the solar industry to provide low-income renters and disadvantaged communities with greater access to clean energy technologies.
To this end, the efforts of Everyday Energy and our partners have resulted in the introduction of important new legislation (AB 693) that would create a new Multifamily Affordable Housing Solar Roofs Program targeted at low-income renters and disadvantaged communities. This groundbreaking legislation, introduced by Assembly Member Susan Eggman (Assembly District 13), tackles many of the barriers to delivering solar PV to multi-tenant buildings that were not addressed by previous policies and MASH program.
AB 693 would enact a long-term solar commitment supporting renewable energy investments in affordable multifamily housing, providing $100 million annually over 10 years. The program is specifically targeted to assist disadvantaged communities and the estimated 3.25 million low-income renter households in California to gain greater access to solar PV and the economic benefits offered by solar.
The bill would be funded from a section of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction fund currently earmarked for electric utilities and used primarily to provide refunds to ratepayers. Up to 15% of the funds from this source can be used to support greenhouse gas emission reduction activities. The proposal will NOT compete with funding requests under the Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Fund that currently supports affordable housing development and sustainability activities.
AB 693 envisions a deep level of incentives for renewable systems serving tenants in order to address split incentive barriers. In so doing the program mitigates the need for property owners to cross-subsidize solar installations from common area savings. This would ultimately lead to improved cash flows to properties, without the necessity of going through a complicated and unpredictable process of adjusting utility allowances. Everyday Energy believes this would provide property owners a significant incentive to participate in the program.
The program would be delivered through statewide administrator(s) and make use of the administrative infrastructure developed for the MASH program. Specific program requirements would be developed through a public proceeding. We expect that affordable housing properties will be able to select a qualified contractor of their choice and that reservations will be made in a simple and straightforward manner.
An important outcome of the program is the scaling of solar in disadvantaged communities. At least 300 MW of solar would be installed on low-income housing properties. These installations would serve over 200,000 low-income households. Low-income renters will receive direct economic benefits through offsets of 30% to 50% of their electricity loads.
Utility ratepayers would also benefit from solar offsets provided to CARE recipients, which would reduce the basis for calculating CARE discounts and thereby reduce CARE program outlays. These programmatic savings could be used to address other low-income energy priorities.
Closing the Green Divide
Collectively, the coalition of organizations supporting AB 693 represents thousands of low-income communities and communities of color throughout the state that are most impacted by pollution and other socioeconomic stresses.
Legislation like AB 693 helps shift from dirty energy to clean energy in low-income communities, which reduces the pollution that causes health problems and climate change while investing resources in our state’s most polluted communities who most need it the most.
We expect that in addition to the ancillary health and environmental benefits, the added household spending from energy savings will be an economic stimulus in these communities as well as creating green job opportunities.
Everyday Energy is proud to be a part of this coalition, and is committed to working with our partners to close the Green Divide that to date has denied low-income renters and disadvantaged communities the economic benefits available from solar PV.
Below are links to some Frequently Asked Questions about AB 693.