Press Release: California Community Solar Bill Passes Key Committee
Bill Enabling CA to Join States on Community Renewable Energy Passes Key Committee
AB 2316 expands clean energy access and utility bill savings for millions of Californians who rent or have low incomes and are not served by existing programs while building the power grid’s resistance to blackouts and avoiding ratepayer costs.
(Sacramento, CA) — California’s State Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications passed AB 2316 by Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego), a bill establishing a community renewable energy program to overcome clean energy access barriers impacting nearly half of Californians who rent or have low incomes while avoiding new ratepayer costs.
This priority bill for a diverse coalition of supporters — such as the California Environmental Justice Alliance, Environmental Defense Fund, Vote Solar, The Utility Reform Network, and the California Building Industry Association — now heads to the Senate Committee on Labor, Public Employment and Retirement for further consideration at a hearing on June 29.
“California’s clean energy programs unfairly exclude frontline communities of color most harmed by pollution. Other states have shown how to overcome this gap through community renewable energy and it’s time for California to catch up,” said Alexis Sutterman, Energy Equity Program Manager at the California Environmental Justice Alliance. “This is a chance to center equity in the clean and distributed energy transition while cutting utility bills for Californians suffering from high housing costs, gas prices, and utility debt. Pairing this bill with a $1 billion state budget investment will ensure frontline communities can lead and meaningfully benefit from greater savings and increased opportunities for community ownership.”
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 proven solution for enabling broader clean energy access among families and small businesses, regardless of whether they rent or own property.
“As Californians face rising energy prices, heat waves, and blackouts, they are looking for solutions. Community solar could give every Californian a way to reduce their power bill, fight climate change and make our grid more reliable, but we need new state policy to enable that,” Susannah Churchill, Western Regional Director at Vote Solar. “Our legislators have a key opportunity to center equity and expand our leadership in renewable energy when they support this community solar bill.”
Avoids energy rate increases among nonparticipating customers by basing bill credits from community renewable projects on the benefits provided to the grid and ratepayers
Ensures at least 51% of subscribers 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 construction
Requires the California Public Utilities Commission to evaluate existing programs based largely on their ability to meet the criteria described above, and to report to the Legislature its justification for terminating, modifying, or retaining them
“California has failed to unleash community solar’s potential. Without this bill, existing programs will continue to fall short of California’s affordable and reliable clean energy needs,” said Charlie Coggeshall, Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at the Coalition for Community Solar Access, sponsor of the bill. “This bill is a chance for California to take what other states have learned to create the nation’s most innovative and equitable community solar program.”
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, wrote: “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.”
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. The Biden Administration wants community solar to reach 5 million households by 2025 and create $1 billion in energy bill savings.
In a few short years, New York State has become the nation’s community solar leader with capacity to power 200,000 homes. Community solar is expected to generate 70% of progress towards New York’s goal to power 700,000 new homes with distributive solar by 2030. At least 35% of associated benefits will go to disadvantaged communities and low/moderate income families.
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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.