California Announces Solar Programs For Disadvantaged Communities

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has adopted three new programs to promote the installation of solar energy to serve customers in disadvantaged communities.

First, the Disadvantaged Communities – Single-family Solar Homes (DAC-SASH) program, modeled after the existing Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) program, will provide upfront financial incentives toward the installation of solar for low-income homeowners. The program will be available to low-income customers who are resident-owners of single-family homes in disadvantaged communities. The incentives will assist customers in overcoming barriers to the installation of solar, such as a lack of upfront capital or credit.

Next, the Disadvantaged Communities – Green Tariff (DAC-Green Tariff) program will provide a 20% bill discount to customers in disadvantaged communities. This will allow customers to choose clean energy options without the need to own their home and without the cost of installing their own solar systems, explains the CPUC. The program is modeled after the existing green tariff portion of the Green Tariff/Shared Renewables programs. It will be available to customers who meet the income eligibility requirements for the California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) and Family Electric Rate Assistance programs.

Lastly, the Community Solar Green Tariff program – similar to the DAC Green Tariff program – and will also provide a 20% bill discount. This program will allow primarily low-income customers in disadvantaged communities to benefit from the development of solar generation projects located in or near their communities. The communities will work with a local nonprofit or local government sponsor to organize community interest and present siting locations to the utility; the sponsor can also receive an incentive for its efforts.

“Transitioning to a clean economy must include all Californians. Targeting solar investments in low-income and disadvantaged communities will help ensure that all Californians have access to all the benefits of solar, whether on their roofs or nearby in their neighborhoods,” says Commissioner Martha Guzman Aceves.

Both the DAC-SASH and DAC-Green Tariff programs will be funded first through greenhouse-gas allowance proceeds. If such funds are exhausted, the programs would be funded through public-purpose program funds.

A.B.327, passed in 2013, included a requirement for the CPUC to develop programs to increase adoption of renewable generation among residential customers in disadvantaged communities.

“California has been a leader nationally in providing solar access to families in disadvantaged communities,” comments Elise Hunter, policy and regulatory director at GRID Alternatives. “We are thrilled to see the commission’s continued efforts to expand access and ensure that our transition to clean energy includes all our communities.”

Also applauding the CPUC’s announcement is Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association:

“This is a bold statement that California will continue to lead in solar energy adoption, and it is our hope that the Golden State will be a model for other states as they seek ways to provide the benefits of solar energy to all American communities,” she says. “SEIA commends the commission for making it easier for all families, regardless of income level, to go solar.”

Calling the decision “an important first step,” Hopper notes, however, that California and other states still have “more to do to bring affordable energy to low-income communities, including to renters and others who can’t currently go solar.”

“We look forward to working with lawmakers and regulators to improve options for these communities,” Hopper says.

Sachu Constantine, regulatory managing director at Vote Solar, adds, “California must now show the nation and the world that we are committed to building a clean energy economy for all by taking further steps to expand community solar options for renters and others who can’t go solar on their own rooftops.”

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