California Senate Proposes $400M for Community Solar

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Advocates Applaud California Senate’s $400 Million Investment in Community Solar and Storage

Advocates for community solar are praising the California Senate Budget Committee’s proposal of a $400 million investment in community solar and storage as part of the updated Budget and Fiscal Review, which was released on May 25.

Earlier this week, a coalition of environmental and environmental justice advocates sent a letter to legislative leaders, requesting the allocation of $400 million from the Clean Energy Reliability Investment Plan (CERIP) funds. These groups specifically emphasized the importance of funding projects that offer cost savings to low-income customers and enhance the reliability of energy supply in marginalized communities.

Community solar and storage initiatives aim to increase access to affordable solar energy by enabling all utility customers, regardless of their housing type, to subscribe to a solar array and receive direct credits on their utility bills for the renewable energy generated. In September of the previous year, California passed Assembly Bill 2316, a groundbreaking legislation that initiated the creation of a community solar and storage program, requiring at least 51% of program capacity to serve low-income customers.

The bill was hailed by solar energy and equity advocates for its potential to expedite the state’s transition to clean energy while providing financial relief to individuals burdened by disproportionately high energy costs and utility debts. Although the program is currently under discussion and design at the California Public Utilities Commission, advocates are urging state funding to support enhanced equity benefits within any future community solar and storage program. This funding would also make California more competitive in securing a portion of the $7 billion “Solar for All” fund, exclusively designated for expanding solar access to low-income and disadvantaged communities.

Stephanie Doyle, the California Regulatory Director for Vote Solar, expressed appreciation for the Senate Budget Committee’s commitment to bold investments in equitable and impactful clean energy solutions. She stated, “The $400 million funding will help us build on the enormous potential of AB 2316, bringing affordable solar and storage within reach for many more California families. Thank you to the Senate Budget Committee for recognizing the need for bold investments in equitable and impactful clean energy solutions. This commitment will help California secure federal investments that can help expand access and benefits for more Californians.”

Currently, Governor Newsom and the state assembly are deliberating on their own “budget trailer bills,” referring to bills that implement policies outlined in the state budget. These bills will undergo negotiation, and the final versions will be voted upon before the legislative session concludes in September.

Alexis Sutterman, the energy equity program manager at the California Environmental Justice Alliance, emphasized the significance of the Senate’s proposed commitment in assisting frontline communities to access clean energy. Sutterman urged the Governor and the state assembly to follow suit and champion environmental justice by approving the allocation of $400 million from the CERIP funds for community solar and storage. She highlighted that California is trailing behind other states in the implementation of community solar and storage, despite its potential to retire polluting peaker gas plants, generate cost savings, and improve air quality in low-income and environmental justice communities.

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