California Senate proposes $400 million community solar and storage investment


The California Senate Budget Committee proposed a $400 million investment in community solar and energy storage in its Budget and Fiscal Review. The proposal was met with strong support among environmental groups for the appropriation of Clean Energy Reliability Investment Plant (CERIP) funding.

Community solar and storage offers access to affordable solar by connecting all utility customers, regardless of housing type, to subscribe to a solar array and receive credits off utility bills for the energy generated by the project. Without the ability to purchase and install solar directly on a rented residence, community solar offers a pathway to 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 program capacity to serve low-income customers. The program is being designed with the California Public Utilities Commission, with rules expected to be ironed out some time in Summer 2023.

The community solar model only represents about 8% of the total distributed solar capacity in the nation. The White House targets for community solar deployment would entail a jump from 3 GW installed capacity to 20 GW by 2025. The Department of Energy estimates customers enrolling in community solar will save an average customer about 20% on monthly electricity bills.

“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,” 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 securing funding from the $7 billion “Solar for All” federal fund exclusively earmarked for expanding solar access for low-income and disadvantaged communities.

California Governor Gavin Newsom and the state assembly said they are currently considering their own “budget trailer bills,” referring to implementing policies outlined in the state budget. The bills are expected to be negotiated and final versions will be voted on before the legislative session ends in September.

“This proposed commitment from the Senate will go a long way in helping frontline communities to access clean energy. The Governor and the state assembly should follow their lead and champion environmental justice by approving a $400 million appropriation from the CERIP funding for community solar and storage,” said Alexis Sutterman, energy equity program manager, California Environmental Justice Alliance. “California is far behind other states in community solar and storage when it should be leading.”

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