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Helping Disadvantaged Communities Go Green

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By Commissioner Martha Guzman Aceves


The CPUC's June 21, 2018, 5-0 vote targeting solar investments in low income and disadvantaged communities is another important step in our ongoing commitment to the idea that the state's transition to a clean economy can only be considered successful if it includes all Californians.

Rooftop solar has grown rapidly throughout California in recent years, but up until now low income and disadvantaged communities have been an afterthought.

In the 70,000 square-mile service area where Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) operates, for instance-an area that stretches from Bakersfield to Eureka and from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the coast-just 17 percent of all rooftop solar is in so-called disadvantaged communities, or DACs.  Only .4 percent belongs to low income residents. (DACs in California are determined by a screening process used by the California Environmental Protection Agency that is based on geographic, socioeconomic, public health, and environmental hazard criteria.)

Our recent vote establishes three new targeted programs that will begin to improve those numbers, with each option providing a different approach in addressing the various hurdles facing expanded use of solar in the many communities around California that need some economic assistance.

•  The DAC - Single-family Solar Homes (DAC-SASH) program: This program allocates $10 million annually, providing up-front financial incentives for solar installation on homes owned by low income residents. The program will allow for greater eligibility and help residents who lack access to capital or credit.  Funded by utility greenhouse gas allowance revenues or public purpose program funds, $10 million in incentives will be provided annually through 2030.

•  The DAC - Green Tariff program: Subscribing customers will receive 100 percent renewable energy generated in DACs anywhere in the state and purchased by PG&E, Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E). The DAC-Green Tariff program will provide a 20 percent discount on electricity bills for low income customers who live in DACs. This option will help people who rent their home, cannot afford solar, or whose home is unsuitable for solar. The DAC-Green Tariff program will also be funded by utility greenhouse gas allowance revenues or public purpose program funds. Seventy megawatts (MW) for PG&E and SCE and 18 MW for SDG&E.

•  Community Solar Green Tariff: Like the DAC-Green Tariff, this program includes many community driven elements, such as job creation and solar in the community. Available through PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E, projects under this program will be sited within a top 25 percent DAC, and subscribers must also be in a top 25 percent DAC within 5 miles of the project. Participants will receive a 20 percent discount on their bills, with the program requiring demonstration of community involvement and interest, including site preferences. This approach is intended to ensure customers in DACs have access to local solar power, with an economic benefit and robust community involvement. This option will also be funded by utility greenhouse gas allowance revenues or public purpose program funds. Eighteen MW for PG&E and SCE and 5 MW for SDG&E.

Taken together, these programs will bring solar energy to more than 40,000 California consumers, and they come at a time when the CPUC is analyzing new ways of providing multi-beneficial distributed solar throughout our state. The great benefit as we move forward is that whatever new methods we adopt, we will now make sure from the beginning that they are delivered equitably. 


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