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A Brief History of California’s Solar Agreement, Net Energy Metering

Solar contractor installing a panel on a roof

As we see the devastating effects of climate change across the globe, most recently in Texas where communities were suffering in freezing temperatures without water or power for days, it has become clearer than ever that we need to transform our power supply to renewable energy in order to increase resiliency. This past summer, California experienced the opposite, where sky high temperatures and demand for air conditioning resulted in rolling blackouts for California residents. In a time where it is crucial to increase the deployment of renewable energy, the United States’ largest solar market, California, is under attack. What happens in California will likely be the example for other states, and this is a crucial battle that we’re on the front lines of right now. 

The success of rooftop solar relies heavily on net energy metering (NEM), a solar producer’s agreement with the electric utility company. At a high level, NEM is a billing structure that allows solar customers to sell their excess electricity back to the grid. The amount is then applied to their utility bills, leaving the solar customer to pay the net amount of energy used. California’s first solar agreement, known as NEM 1.0, was extremely successful and accelerated the transition to solar for California residents, businesses, schools and municipalities. Since then, investor-owned utilities (IOUs) across the state have continuously attacked rooftop solar, proposing egregious policies that would make solar economically infeasible. In 2016 the second solar agreement rolled out initially in the San Diego Gas & Electric utility territory, and made its debut for Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison in 2017. This successor tariff is known as NEM 2.0, and after a tough battle against the utility companies, the California Public Utilities Commission decided that the new solar rate would be similar to the first, maintaining the major benefit of allowing customers to sell electricity back to the grid at retail rates. However, NEM 2.0 required all solar customers to transition to a time-of-use (TOU) rate and non-bypassable rates. Under a TOU rate, a customer is charged different rates based on the time of the day with designated on peak and off peak times. The highest rates are during peak demand, which is late afternoon and early evening, while off peak times occur early in the morning and late at night and have the lowest cost. The new rate structure under NEM 2.0 has serious implications for solar customers, because it changes the value of the energy sold to the grid based on the time. This means that in order to get the highest NEM credits, customers need to sell the bulk of their energy during peak hours. Although NEM 2.0 is substantially less beneficial to solar customers compared to its predecessor, it still retained the major benefits of being able to sell energy back to the grid. Solar companies even began to adapt to TOU rates by designing solar systems to face west in order to capture the maximum energy possible during the late afternoon. Now, California’s IOUs are attempting to make modifications to net metering, ushering in NEM 3.0. 

As details of NEM 3.0 continue to unfold at the California Public Utilities Commission, it is clear that the IOUs are calling for drastic cuts to NEM. The California Solar and Storage Association (CALSSA) estimates that the economic value of going solar will be reduced by 50-75 percent with the IOU’s proposed changes. Decisions made during these proceedings will not only affect new solar customers, but existing customers as well as the IOUs have proposed removing grandfathering periods for current customers, essentially forcing all solar customers onto NEM 3.0. 

With the understanding that NEM 3.0 could kill rooftop solar and that California is a leader and looked to as a model for shaping renewable energy programs, it is not an understatement to say that we are fighting to save solar. We are calling on organizations to sign this net metering letter and individuals to sign this petition, by early April, which will be sent to Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Public Utilities Commision. 

Our founder, Tara Hammond, began a small local coalition to save rooftop solar in California last year and the coalition has quickly grown to a statewide grassroots effort, with more than 70 organizations being involved. To learn more or to join the battle, please reach out to our Climate Justice Policy Advisor, Karinna Gonzalez at

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Empowering Oceanside: Nonprofits Harness Clean Energy to Reinvest in the Community and Combat Climate Injustices

About a year ago, Preserve Calavera, the Oceanside-based nonprofit organization that received $4.4 million for its Oceanside Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Fund, selected solar power projects to be among its first initiatives with the fund.

About a year ago, Preserve Calavera, the Oceanside-based nonprofit organization that received $4.4 million for its Oceanside Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Fund, selected solar power projects to be among its first initiatives with the fund. The target for its initial solar grants were nonprofits in Oceanside’s communities of concern that otherwise wouldn’t be going solar. 

With an April 2023 deadline to get secured under net energy metering, or NEM 2.0, the solar agreement with San Diego Gas & Electric before solar rules changed across California, Preserve Calavera hired Hammond Climate Solutions Foundation to manage the solar initiative. After outreach to several community organizations, Preserve Calavera recommended Brother Benno’s to be one of the grant recipients. Brother Benno’s is a 501(c)(3) dedicated to serving homeless neighbors, the working poor, and seniors in North San Diego County by offering essential meals, addressing basic needs, fostering community outreach, and supporting addiction recovery.

Hammond Climate Solutions Foundation managed a competitive bidding process for the solar projects, brought in BQuest Foundation, another philanthropic funder, oversaw the execution of the solar contracts and philanthropic solar agreements, in addition to reaching out to an established BQuest partner, Vista Community Clinic, to be a grant recipient. Vista Community Clinic, which first opened in 1972, set out to provide quality health care to anyone who walked through its doors. Today, nearly 50 years later, the clinics have helped redefine the community clinic model by pioneering innovative models of primary care delivery.

The first of the three solar projects, for Vista Community Clinic’s (North Horne Street location), completed this month. The other two projects, at Vista Community Clinic’s (Pier View Way location) and Brother Benno’s, should start within a couple of weeks. Combined, these projects are saving the nonprofits an estimated $2 million during the lifetime of the systems while reducing 2810  metric tons of CO2 contributing to the climate crisis. The three systems have an average payback period of 4.3 years. Additionally, these solar projects were installed by the Encinitas-based, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) 569 signatory contractor, Aloha Solar Power, supporting local green jobs and apprentices getting on-the-job training. These three projects are considered smaller solar projects that slip through the cracks with traditional solar financing. This leaves many nonprofits not being able to go solar, missing out on a variety of benefits. 

The solar projects will provide education to the community about clean energy, how it reduces climate injustices and the impacts of the climate crisis, which often impact communities of concern first and worst. 

These projects were made possible by a grant from the Oceanside Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Fund at San Diego Foundation on behalf of Preserve Calavera as well as a philanthropic solar bridge loan from the BQuest Foundation. 

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Celebrating a year of impactful climate action

The past year has been a testament to the undeniable urgency of addressing the climate crisis as extreme weather and flooding events, fires, drought, heatwaves and other climate emergencies are occurring worldwide.

The past year has been a testament to the undeniable urgency of addressing the climate crisis as extreme weather and flooding events, fires, drought, heatwaves and other climate emergencies are occurring worldwide. As California made decisions to side with the investor-owned utilities to make solar power less accessible and more expensive, the federal government made landmark investments in funding clean energy initiatives. Our team has been working tirelessly advocating for a just and livable future, which includes work behind the scenes working with Governor Newsom’s office, California Public Utility Commission staff and San Diego Community Power to provide feedback on and assist with advancing climate initiatives and programs.    

As we grapple with the wins and losses this year brought, the Hammond Climate Solutions Foundation team is proud to have helped create a more just and livable future. We are grateful for our clients, nonprofit partners and climate champions that we have the pleasure of working with throughout 2023. 

Climate Legislation 

California was able to make some progress on climate through statewide legislation this year and our team was proud to offer our support on a handful of bills, some of which did not pass or did pass and were vetoed by Governor Newsom. By far the biggest win was Senate Bill 253, the Climate Corporation Data Accountability Act, which now requires companies making $1 billion or more to disclose their annual greenhouse gas emissions, forcing an estimated 5,400 companies in the state including Walmart, Exxon and Apple, to provide transparency and hopefully turn that transparency into true climate action. 

Another climate win we were able to help support, along with our partner BQuest Foundation, was Senate Bill 355. The bill started as a bill to expand the eligibility requirements for the state’s Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing Program,and after meeting with the bill author’s office, our team was proud to have language added into the bill to encourage a loan guarantee to increase utilization of program funds. Although the details still need to be worked out through the California Public Utilities Commission, the added language means that property owners could access the rebate on the front end. 

As we celebrate these two huge wins in the legislature, we have also been actively campaigning to reverse language approved last year through Assembly Bill 205, a budget trailer bill that included a provision, which removed the current cap on utility taxes and mandates a utility tax on all ratepayers that has unlimited potential to grow. The bill was passed without any public discussion and would be the highest utility tax in the country in a state that already has the highest utility rates in the nation. Throughout this year, Hammond Climate Solutions Foundation and organization partners have submitted numerous letters to state legislators, Governor Newsom and the California Public Utilities Commission urging them to repeal the utility tax provision. We have also addressed this issue directly with legislators who have met with us in person. If this section of the bill is not repealed, then the changes will go into effect mid next year. 

Rooftop Solar 

Protecting and expanding rooftop solar has been one of Hammond Climate Solutions Foundation’s biggest policy priorities this year. Although the decision to cut rooftop solar benefits for homeowners in 2022 was a drastic decision and a huge step in the wrong direction, the investor-owned utilities and the California Public Utilities Commission took it a step further and began attacking solar for renters, farms and schools. In August the California Public Utilities Commission issued a proposed decision that would block renters, farms and schools from using their own solar energy. The proposal attempted to give the utilities full control over rooftop solar energy produced by any facility with multiple meters, meaning a school for example, would need to buy back their own solar energy from the utility at full price. Our team worked tirelessly to bring attention to this issue locally and statewide and submitted numerous comments. After delaying the vote on this decision numerous times, a revised proposed decision was released in November. The newly revised proposed decision allows tenants in multifamily buildings to use their solar energy in real time, but still blocks that right from property owners, schools and farms. This decision along with the cuts to rooftop solar benefits for homeowners made last year will make it harder for California to reach its clean energy goals, increase climate injustices, accelerate the climate crisis and ultimately shows how much power the investor owned utilities have.  

Although both decisions are upsetting, we are proud of the advocates statewide who spent numerous hours ensuring their voices were heard and were proud to contribute to San Diego being listed as one of the top cities with the most public comments on this issue. 

Local Climate Action 

While Hammond Climate Solutions Foundation has remained very engaged on statewide issues, our team has also stayed involved with local climate initiatives. Over the course of the year, we submitted numerous letters to the City of San Diego City Council and Mayor Todd Gloria on issues ranging from funding for the Climate Action Plan, building electrification, recommendations for budget prioritization and more. 

We also remain engaged with the County of San Diego as they develop their Regional Decarbonization Framework, providing feedback as they release information.  

We are proud to hold trusted relationships with local elected officials and be looked at as subject matter experts on issues like net energy metering and rooftop solar. This year, we were invited to participate in two elected officials’ environmental roundtables where we proposed ideas for future bills and policies and discussed our team’s priorities. 

We were also proud to help the Let’s Go! San Diego Coalition raise awareness on a proposed transit improvement measure, which has successfully passed the 10,0000 signature requirement to go on the 2024 ballot. 

Looking Forward to 2024

Our team is involved in numerous coalitions, serving in leadership roles and intend to continue our involvement with the San Diego Green New Deal Alliance, California Alliance for Community Energy, San Diego Community Power, San Diego Building Electrification Coalition and Grid Alternatives San Diego. In addition to continuing our climate advocacy and policy efforts, we are also working hard on our climate programs like the Solar Moonshot Program and our e-bike programs. 

Please connect with us on social media: Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and X (formerly Twitter, and to ensure you receive updates in the future, sign up for our newsletter.

We look forward to working with all of you in 2024 to create a more resilient, equitable and healthier future for all. 

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Villa Lakeshore Apartments in Lakeside, which BQuest provided a SOMAH bride loan for, allowing the property to install solar, which saves tenants $1,600 a year on utility bills

California bill could restructure traditional incentive programs

New bill could restructure traditional incentive programs in California

It is no secret that traditionally, clean energy infrastructure has primarily been accessible to wealthy homeowners in California. More than a million homes and businesses have rooftop solar, but the state’s environmental justice communities, which are in the most polluted areas, have been left out. In order to reach the state’s climate and clean energy goals, it is necessary to provide clean energy access to everyone and a big part of how we get there is programs. 

The Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH) Program was created by California Assembly Bill (AB) 693 introduced by then Assemblymember Susan Eggman in 2016, which included the largest investment of its kind in the nation - $1 billion over the next decade from five of the state's gas and electric  investor-owned utility companies greenhouse gas cap-and-trade auction proceeds to subsidize solar panels on multifamily affordable housing across the state. For tenants, this means reduced utility bills, better housing security and job training opportunities. For housing complex owners, the solar reduces common area electricity costs, reducing overhead expenses. The program had a very successful launch, becoming fully subscribed within the first 24 hours of opening the program with more than 240 applications representing 74MW of solar capacity. However, after the successful launch, the program has experienced a significant decrease in applications in subsequent years, only receiving a total of 20 applications in 2022. 

A required third-party evaluation of the program identified a number of barriers to program participation. A major barrier cited from property owners was gap financing. SOMAH Program projects can be lengthy, and the current incentive structure requires the property owner to float the rebate amount, which can be thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, sometimes for a year. The program recognized this issue and rolled at progress payments, which paid a portion of the incentive for certain project milestones, but this simply is not enough for some property owners. Recognizing the need for gap financing in order for these projects to participate in the program, Hammond Climate Solutions Foundation and BQuest Foundation began working together to provide no interest bridge loans for SOMAH projects, providing much needed funds for projects that would have otherwise not moved forward. After funding a handful of projects, BQuest realized they could scale this opportunity a lot more quickly and reach many more property owners by creating a loan guarantee instead of financing these projects on a one by one basis. A loan guarantee would allow the property owner to access the rebate on the front end, backed by a loan guarantee from BQuest, without putting ratepayer money at risk and allowing BQuest to scale their impact. 

In February 2023, Senator Eggman introduced Senate Bill (SB) 355, which expanded SOMAH Program eligibility to include tribal housing, housing owned by public agencies and increased the income threshold among other things. At this point, Hammond Climate Solutions Foundation and BQuest had already been involved in numerous meetings with the SOMAH Program administrators, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) energy division staff, the Governor’s Office and were actively involved in the SOMAH proceeding at the CPUC and while support for this idea was given by all parties, implementing something like this had proven to be slightly more difficult. Since SB 355 addressed the lack of applications in the SOMAH program and expanded eligibility, we met with Senator Eggman’s staff and proposed an amendment to the bill to include language for a loan guarantee and not only was the language added with no opposition, it was signed by Governor Newsom on October 7! 

This is a huge win for California and an opportunity to prove that incentive programs structured in a way that provides the rebate on the front end can work and will eliminate barriers to participation. You can read the full bill text here.     

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