Equitable Community Solar Bill Moves Ahead in California’s Capitol

Many Americans know California as a clean energy leader. Supportive state policies here have resulted in over 1.2 million rooftop solar installations and rapid deployment of utility-scale renewables and storage. One place where we lag behind, though, is community solar. The Golden State has historically failed to offer affordable community renewable energy options to renters and others unable to install solar on their own roofs.

Thankfully, there’s a chance for real progress on community solar this year. Last week, California state legislators passed out of committee a new Vote Solar-backed bill to unlock affordable community solar for millions.

California Community Solar Bill AB2316

AB 2316, by Assemblymember Ward, would create an innovative new program offering affordable community solar and storage across the state, with a priority on serving low-income Californians. The program centers energy justice by requiring at least 51% of each project to serve low-income customers. AB 2316 has broad support from environmental justice organizations, labor, consumer advocates, the community solar industry, and environmental groups.

The bill is facing opposition from California’s three big utilities. We were worried that with their power in the Legislature, they would kill AB 2316 in its first committee.

But despite utility opposition, clean energy progress prevailed! On Wednesday April 27, the State Assembly Committee on Utilities and Energy passed AB 2316 on a vote of 9-3. We commend Committee Chair Eduardo Garcia and the other legislators who supported AB 2316 for their clean energy leadership.

The bill still has a long way to go in the Legislature, but we are celebrating this first win.

A special thanks to the hundreds of Vote Solar members. Hundreds wrote to their legislators in the last week urging the Committee’s support for this important bill. Next up, we’ll work to pass AB 2316 in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations. This will help build support for allocating $1 billion from the state budget to the program, to ensure low-income subscribers will get substantial utility bill savings from their community renewable energy.

Here are more details on what AB 2316 would do:

  • Dedicate at least 51% of the power generated by each community solar project to benefit low-income customers or low-income service organizations.
  • Include energy storage requirements on community solar to increase power grid reliability. This will provide clean energy to the grid when it’s needed most to reduce blackouts.
  • Compensate subscribers based on the time-differentiated value of the project’s generation.
  • Provide accountability for results and transparency through routine reports to lawmakers on program growth and low-income subscriber participation.
  • Ensure strong prevailing wages for workers who build the projects.
  • Provide an option for builders to meet California building code requirements through solar on new home and commercial building construction projects.

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