The Senate has received praise from industry and environmental advocates for its proposal in the budget and fiscal review.
The California Senate Budget Committee proposed a $400 million investment in energy storage and community solar power in its Budget and fiscal review. The proposal was received with strong support among environmental groups for the allocation of funds for the Clean Energy Reliability Investment Plant (CERIP).
Community solar and storage provides access to affordable solar energy by connecting all utility customers, regardless of home type, to subscribe to a solar panel and receive utility bill credits for energy generated by the project. Without the ability to purchase and install solar directly at a rental residence, community solar provides a pathway for the 45% of Californians who rent their homes and the 70% of renters who are considered low income.
California passed Assembly Bill 2316 last year, opening a process to create a formal community solar market. The program requires at least 51% of the program’s capacity to serve low-income clients. The program is being designed with the California Public Utilities Commission, with the rules expected to be finalized sometime in the summer of 2023.
The community solar model only accounts for about 8% of the total distributed solar capacity in the nation. White House goals for community solar deployment would imply a jump from 3 GW of installed capacity to 20 GW by 2025. The Department of Energy estimates that customers who sign up for community solar will save an average customer about 20% off monthly electric bills.
“The $400 million funding will help us realize the enormous potential of AB 2316, bringing affordable solar and storage within the reach of many more California families,” said Stephanie Doyle, California regulatory director, Vote Solar. “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.”
The funding proposal is expected to make California more competitive for funding from the $7 billion federal “Solar for All” fund intended exclusively to expand solar access for low-income and disadvantaged communities.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state assembly said they are currently considering their own “budget tow bills,” referring to the implementation of policies outlined in the state budget. The bills are expected to be negotiated and final versions voted on before the legislative session ends in September.
“This Senate-proposed compromise will go a long way toward helping frontline communities access clean energy. The Governor and State Assembly should follow suit and advocate for environmental justice by approving a $400 million allocation of CERIP funds for community solar and storage,” said Alexis Sutterman, California Environmental Justice Alliance Energy Equity Program Manager. “California is far away behind other states in community solar and storage when it should be leading.”
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