Community solar energy allows low-income residents to take advantage of reduced energy rates without buying solar panels for their homes. (sbcountycdha.com ).

Prince James Story |

Low income renters in the inland region may soon be able to enjoy the benefits of solar energy. On Tuesday, the California State Legislature passed AB 2316, which creates a Community Renewable Energy program that would make solar energy projects more accessible across the state. 

“AB 2316 is poised to be the most significant expansion of solar access to low and middle-income communities in California history,” said Assemblymember Chris Ward. “Not only is it about equity, it’s also about building out a community solar program that would improve the overall reliability of our electrical grid by ensuring that solar energy is sent during peak hours of usage.”

Community solar energy allows low-income residents to take advantage of reduced energy rates without buying solar panels for their homes. 

“If the state agencies moved quickly to implement the program, we could see over 800 megawatts of new community solar and storage projects built and serving about a quarter million California households by the summer of 2025,” said Susannah Churchill, Deputy Program Director for the West of  the non-profit organization Vote Solar.

This will positively impact residents who live in apartment complexes or rent their homes and individuals who can’t afford to buy solar panels.  They will be allowed to support clean energy and fight climate change while reducing their energy bills. 

One key advantage brought by AB 2316 is that it requires at least 51% of the energy from new community solar power projects to serve low-income communities. 

According to Susannah Churchill,  Deputy Program Director for the West,of  the non-profit organization Vote Solar,  this is the highest requirement of any low-income solar panel project in the country. 

“If the state agencies moved quickly to implement the program, we could see over 800 megawatts of new community solar and storage projects built and serving about a quarter million California households by the summer of 2025,” Churchill said. “Because of that 51% requirement, at least 125,000 of those are going to be low-income households.” 

This comes after Gov. Gavin Newsom applauded President Joe Biden’s signing of the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides additional bonus tax credits of 20% for projects at affordable housing properties and 10% for projects in low-income communities. 

This bill will also provide well-paying jobs for community members, with the amendment that the owner of the community renewable energy facility shall ensure that the prevailing wage requirement is included in all contracts for the performance of the work. 

Reduced Bills

Another proponent of the bill is the requirement to build renewable battery storage for these solar projects. California experiences peaks in power usage between 4:00 and 9:00 pm. Battery storage units can provide energy to customers in the evening and help reduce their electricity bills. 

A house powered by solar energy. AB 2316 will positively impact residents who live in apartment complexes or rent their homes and individuals who can’t afford to buy solar panels. [Source: www.flickr.com}

“California lawmakers want their state to remain on the cutting edge of clean energy by deploying it to build social equity during a changing climate,” said Derek Chernow, Western Regional Director at the Coalition for Community Solar Access. “If signed by Governor Newsom, AB 2316 creates the nation’s most equitable community solar plus storage program. As billions of federal dollars are invested in this proven technology to cut electrical bills for working families and prevent blackouts, the only choice for California is to lead. We urge Governor Newsom to sign this bill and unleash a vibrant new sector of the green economy geared to remove barriers to affordable clean power while putting Californians to work.”

Who qualifies as a “Low-income customer”?

  • An individual or household who qualifies for one or more of the following programs:
  • The California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program.
  • The Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA) program 
  • The CalFresh program 
  • The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) 
  • The Low-income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

What is classified as an underserved community?

  • Low-income community as defined in Section 39713 of the Health and Safety Code.
  • A community within an area identified as among the 25 percent most disadvantaged areas in the state according to the California Environmental Protection Agency and based on the most recent California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool.
  • A community located on lands belonging to a California Native American tribe.

Prince James Story

Report for America Corps member and Black Voice News Climate and Environmental Justice reporter, Prince James Story was raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He is an intersectional journalist with experience covering news and sports across numerous mediums. Story aims to inform the public of social inequities and discriminatory practices while amplifying the voices of those in the communities harmed. Story earned his master’s degree in Sports Journalism from Arizona State University-Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He earned a B.A. in Mass Communication and a B.A. in African American studies from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Contact Prince James with tips, comments, or concerns at Princejames@blackvoicenews.com or via Twitter @PrinceJStory.