The Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015 (also known as Senate Bill 350 or SB 350) calls upon the CPUC to help improve air quality and economic conditions in communities identified as "disadvantaged." For example, changing the way we plan the development and future operations of power plants around the state, or rethinking the location of clean energy technologies to benefit burdened communities. Additionally, SB 350 requires that the CPUC and the California Energy Commission create a Disadvantaged Communities Advisory Group, which assists the two Commissions in understanding how energy programs impact these areas and could be improved. Read the CPUC's press release on the creation of the Advisory Group. 

Disadvantaged Communities

What is a Disadvantaged Community? 

Disadvantaged communities refers to the areas throughout California which most suffer from a combination of economic, health, and environmental burdens. These burdens include poverty, high unemployment, air and water pollution, presence of hazardous wastes as well as high incidence of asthma and heart disease. One way that the state identifies these areas is by collecting and analyzing information from communities all over the state. CalEnviroScreen, an analytical tool created by the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), combines different types of census tract-specific information into a score to determine which communities are the most burdened or "disadvantaged." Insert a city or town in the CalEnviroScreen map's search box here to see if it is considered a disadvantaged community in this context.

How do Environmental Justice and Social Justice relate to Disadvantaged Communities?

Environmental and social justice seeks to come to terms with, and remedy, a history of unfair treatment of communities, predominantly communities of people of color and/or low-income residents. These communities have been subjected to disproportionate impacts from one or more environmental hazards, socio-economic burdens, or both. Residents have been excluded in policy setting or decision-making processes and have lacked protections and benefits afforded to other communities by the implementation of environmental and other regulations, such as those enacted to control polluting activities. See CPUC Environmental and Social Justice (ESJ) Action Plan web page.

ESJ communities include, but are not limited to:

  • Disadvantaged communities, as identified by CalEPA's CalEnviroScreen tool;
  • All Tribal lands;
  • Low-income households (Household incomes below 80 percent of the area median income); and
  • Low-income census tracts (Census tracts where aggregated household incomes are less than 80 percent of area or state median income).

CPUC Clean Energy Initiatives for Disadvantaged Communities or Low-Income Customers

Other CPUC Programs and Actions Affecting Disadvantaged Communities

  • Climate Adaptation (considers strategies to integrate climate change adaptation matters into relevant Commission work)
  • Wildfire mitigation planning (CPUC will review and refine the utilities' plans to prevent, combat, and respond to wildfires)
  • Affordability Proceeding (develop a framework and principles to identify and define affordability criteria for all utility services under CPUC jurisdiction)
  • Integrated Resource Planning (energy procurement that supports the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions)
  • Net Energy Metering (a tariff that supports solar and other clean energy projects in the state, including disadvantaged communities)
  • Electric and Natural Gas Research (research, development and demonstration projects to help achieve climate and energy policy goals)
  • Renewables Portfolio Standard Program (procuring renewables to meet the state's energy needs)
  • Demand Response Pilots for Disadvantaged Communities (to learn about targeting demand response benefits on disadvantaged communities.)


Energy bill discounts and assistance for low income customers:

Other state activities focusing on Disadvantaged Communities: