California bill requiring utilities to create community solar programs reaches governor’s desk

The California State Legislature passed AB 2316 authored by Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego) to create community renewable energy programs, such as community solar + storage, to overcome clean energy access barriers impacting nearly half of Californians who rent or have low incomes while strengthening the state’s power grid.

This priority bill for a various coalition of supporters — including advocates for environmental justice, clean energy, ratepayers, home builders and commercial property — now heads to Governor Gavin Newsom who will have until September 30 to act on the measure.

AB 2316 requires large utilities serving more than 100,000 customers to create and implement programs that “enable ratepayers to participate directly in offsite electrical generation facilities that use eligible renewable energy resources,” such as community solar.

“This bill rightly puts communities most harmed by pollution and climate change front and center in California’s transition to a clean energy future,” said Alexis Sutterman, Energy Equity Program Manager at the California Environmental Justice Alliance. “By signing this bill, Governor Newsom can cut energy bills for low-income families struggling to make ends meet and take a critical step forward in closing the clean energy gap. This bill will also increase clean energy capacity, which will help California safely and reliably retire polluting fossil fuel plants in environmental justice communities.”

Community solar projects are smaller -scale installations often built on landfills, former industrial sites or private 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. When paired with energy storage, projects enhance power grid reliability by providing power after the sun sets.

The Biden Administration is deploying community solar to generate $1 billion in annual utility bill savings in a pilot program benefitting low and middle income households. The federal Inflation Reduction Act includes billions of dollars in new incentives for community solar projects with storage benefiting low-moderate income families and paying prevailing wages.

AB 2316 would create a community renewable energy program, such as community solar + storage. the bill:

  • Gives renters, nearly half of Californians and mostly people of color, access to clean energy and lower electricity bills
  • Builds the reliability of California’s power grid through linking storage with community solar
  • Ensures at least 51% of subscribers are low-income customers
  • Requires prevailing wages for workers
  • Avoids cost transfers to non-participants and maximizes the state’s ability to access federal funds under the Inflation Reduction Act.

“Californians are struggling with high energy and housing costs more than ever. Community solar + storage can put money back in their pockets while fighting climate change and building a more reliable power grid,” said Susannah Churchill, deputy program director, West at Vote Solar. “By signing this bill, Governor Newsom can ensure California leads the nation in equalizing clean energy access among families with low incomes while accessing billions in federal funds to supercharge this long overdue change.”

News item from the Coalition for Community Solar Access

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