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Meet the San Diego County Leaders Advocating to Protect Rooftop Solar and Expand Equitable Access

Collage of organization logos

A year-long battle to save rooftop solar in California is nearing a final decision.  Although going up against the monopoly utility companies and their allies has not been easy, local advocates have been successful in sending a loud and clear message: San Diegans want to protect rooftop solar and expand equitable access to solar and storage.  A proposed net energy metering (NEM) decision is expected to be made in December with a final decision expected by February from  the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which will decide the future rooftop solar agreement in California, known as net energy metering 3.0 (NEM 3.0).  

Along with our partners in San Diego, we helped grow a coalition of over 40 local environmental, climate justice and advocacy organizations, five cities, the state’s second largest community choice energy program, schools and local elected officials to weigh in on the net energy metering proceeding to advocate for the continued growth of rooftop solar.  Over a year ago we reached out to San Diego-based solar advocates and helped establish and co-lead the Save California Solar coalition with the Solar Rights Alliance, which meets monthly and has many San Diego-based and statewide organizations involved. 

The City of Solana Beach led the charge in September, becoming the first city in the region to adopt a net metering 3.0 resolution, which specifically called out the investor-owned utilities’ proposal and its potential to disrupt the market.  The vote at Solana Beach’s Climate Action Commission and city council were unanimous after hearing many local organizations speak in support during public comments. 

“I am completely in support of the resolution,” said Solana Beach Deputy Mayor Kristi Becker.  “Everything we do on the city council, at the Climate Action Commission  for the Clean Energy Alliance, we've all been trying to encourage renewable energy so we need to make sure that it remains affordable and we also have to make sure it is affordable for those in our communities of need.” 

Following the Solana Beach resolution, the Chula Vista City Council and Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina sent letters to Governor Gavin Newsom, both advocating for the CPUC not to make any drastic changes to the current net energy metering policy, which has been very successful in finally making solar accessible to communities of concern. 

In November, the City of San Diego, America’s second-best solar city, became the largest city in the state to weigh in on the proceeding.  San Diego Councilmember Raul Campillo, who was one of the first elected officials in the state to issue a letter to Governor Newsom advocating for a solar-friendly net metering 3.0 agreement, called out the importance of this resolution during his remarks.  “This {resolution} ensures that the City of San Diego has communicated its priorities to the state on this matter, and we cannot afford any changes to this {net metering} policy that slows down the process or limits accessibility to clean energy. This resolution speaks loudly and clearly that the City of San Diego wants to protect the environment, create good paying, high-skilled jobs, improve our energy resiliency and save ratepayers billions of dollars."

Shortly after San Diego’s resolution was approved, the City of Encinitas weighed in with a letter from the city council and Mayor Catherine Blakespear, which stated “the City of Encinitas was proud to be one of the first cities in the region to join a community choice energy program, San Diego Community Power (SDCP), and we have plans for our program to benefit the community in various ways, and net metering plays a role in our impact.  The solar fees that are being proposed by the IOUs are fees that SDCP will not be able to avoid, meaning that rooftop solar for our community choice energy program customers may still be inaccessible despite SDCP’s solar-friendly NEM rate, which is bad for our community members, makes it harder and more expensive for SDCP to reach 100 percent clean energy and takes away from potential program opportunities to benefit the community.” 

It is very clear that the organizations, elected officials and San Diego Community Power understand the impacts that a bad NEM 3.0 decision could have on the climate as well as local and statewide clean energy goals.  In all of the local advocacy in meetings regarding net energy metering, SDG&E has been the only opposition, citing concerns over equity, which we believe are not only disingenuous, but unfounded.  Very credible studies show that rooftop solar reduces rates for everyone because it reduces the cost of maintaining long distance power lines as well as wildfire costs associated with those power lines.  A recent study by Vibrant Clean Energy shows rooftop solar can save California ratepayers $120 billion!  Rooftop solar threatens the monopoly utilities’ profits, and that is their true motivation for advocating for reform. California’s investor-owned utility companies have not only tried making solar less accessible to all, they have also blocked efforts for community choice energy, community solar, on-bill solar financing and other tools to make solar more accessible. 

The battle over the future of rooftop solar in California continues, but we hope that the CPUC commissioners will consider all of San Diego’s advocacy surrounding this issue and that the proposed decision released next month will reject elements of the IOUs’ proposal that would make it harder for communities of concern to go solar, namely high monthly solar fees, decreasing export compensation and instantaneous netting. 

None of this work would be possible without the dedication and commitment from local advocates, the majority of which volunteer their time for this cause.  Rooftop solar is a key climate solution, and with the devastating effects of the climate crisis already occurring throughout California, now is the time when we should be discussing how to incentivize more people, especially in communities of concern, to adopt solar and storage.  A big thank you to the following organizations, schools, elected officials and cities: 

  • San Diego Community Power 
  • City of Encinitas 
  • City of Chula Vista 
  • City of San Diego 
  • City of Solana Beach
  • Mayor Serge Dedina
  • Councilmember Raul Campillo 
  • Carlsbad Unified School District 
  • San Diego Democratic Socialists 
  • San Diego Urban Sustainability Coalition 
  • I Am Green 
  • Citizens Climate Lobby San Diego 
  • San Diego Green New Deal Alliance 
  • Unitehere! Local 30 
  • Associated Students of San Diego State University 
  • Center for Sustainable Energy 
  • GRID Alternatives San Diego 
  • Climate Action Campaign 
  • San Diego Climate Hub
  • San Diego Coastkeeper 
  • Environmental Centers of San Diego 
  • North County Climate Change Alliance 
  • Samuel Lawrence Foundation 
  • Surfrider San Diego 
  • Bike San Diego 
  • Protect Our Communities Foundation 
  • League of Women Voters San Diego 
  • San Diego Green Building Council 
  • SanDiego350 
  • South Bay Sustainable Communities 
  • Climate Reality Project San Diego 
  • BQuest Foundation 
  • Business for Good San Diego 
  • San Diego Energy District Foundation 
  • Uptown Tavern 
  • San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action 

We appreciate all of our partners in this effort and would like to give a special shout out to Climate Action Campaign, SanDiego350 and San Diego Urban Sustainability Coalition, along with the Solar Rights Alliance, which have attended countless meetings and presentations to move all of the aforementioned efforts forward.  

More details about the NEM 3.0 proceeding can be found at

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Let’s Go! San Diego Transit Relief

Do you live in San Diego County? How satisfied are you with the current state of roads and public transportation? You may be approached, if you have not been already, with these questions by a friendly volunteer in the next few months as the November 2023 deadline to submit measures for the 2024 ballot quickly approaches.

The County’s transit infrastructure has been in decline for many years now. Local governments in the region have poured millions of taxpayers’ dollars into expanding freeways, but we know from looking at Los Angeles and other regions that more lanes increase the number of cars on the road. More cars on the road means more air pollution, which disproportionately burdens the health and well-being of BIPOC communities and communities of concern. 

It’s time for us to come together and create change. Let’s Go! San Diego is a campaign focused on building a better future for local families by delivering essential transportation improvements: reducing congestion, upgrading highway safety, fixing roads and making public transit more reliable and accessible. Some of the other projects that Let’s Go! will fund include:

  • Purple trolley line extending from South County to Sorrento Valley
  • Moving Rail Line connecting to San Diego International Airport
  • Increased service on bus and trolley routes
  • Habitat preservation and stormwater upgrades

Vehicles make up 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in California, 80 percent of nitrogen oxide pollution and 90 percent of diesel particulate matter pollution. Thus, an improvement to our transportation system means progress for meeting local and statewide climate goals

So, how will this be funded? The measure proposes a half-cent increase to the County’s sales tax, meaning for every $20 you spend, $0.10 will go towards improving our transit system. Tax increases are not often appealing, however, we wholeheartedly believe that the impact of this measure far outweighs the individual costs. The lack of viable transportation alternatives for County residents limits access to jobs, education, medical offices and recreational facilities. San Diego County needs more and better options, which is why it is crucial that residents bring this measure into next year’s ballot.

The broad coalition supporting this important effort is composed of over 30 nonprofits, unions, environment groups and businesses. Launched by SanDiego350 and the Environmental Health Coalition, this grassroots effort continues to grow in strength. Check out the complete list of endorsements here: Let’s Go! San Diego Endorsements.

If you haven’t signed the petition yet, visit one of the locations here to bring this measure one step closer to becoming a reality. Also, consider joining the campaign to stay up to date on our progress and spread awareness to friends, family and neighbors so that San Diego may deliver long-awaited transit improvements to the County.

Photo Credit: Let’s Go! San Diego

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The Future of Schools is Electric

I (Karen Cederholm, Hammond Climate Solutions Foundation Climate Justice Intern) remember when my high school installed solar panels in its vast and barren parking lot; the blacktop used to capture so much heat you could feel it radiate back up at the end of the day. It was wonderful to see that the empty space was now producing clean energy while also providing shade to student and faculty vehicles during a typical sunny day in San Diego. Now, students from other schools within the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) will be able to see this transition as well as the Board of Education recently passed a fossil fuel free resolution on April 26, 2023 to make all schools in the district fully electric.

Spearheaded by the Schools Team of the San Diego Building Electrification Coalition, which we are members of, activists and students worked effortfully to call upon the Board of Education to commit the district to phasing out the use of fossil fuels. SanDiego350 garnered over 600 signatures on its petition and organized a rally outside of the district office on April 25 before the board meeting, demanding the adoption of a clean energy resolution. Participants also made comments to the board during the meeting, advocating for a fossil fuel free future (check out the Fossil Fuel Free Pledge where businesses, nonprofits, philanthropists and elected officials make this commitment!). With this new resolution, bus fleets and maintenance vehicles currently running on fossil fuels will be phased out, appliances in existing buildings will be replaced with electric ones and a reach code will be established for new construction. A Green Jobs curriculum will also be established to raise awareness of environmentally focused professions, and SDUSD will enroll in San Diego Community Power’s Power100 by the end of 2024, using 100 percent renewable and carbon-free energy.

This transition to clean energy is happening nationwide. The Environmental Protection Agency currently has a Clean School Bus Program running through 2026 that is distributing $1 billion to 389 public and charter school districts, and so far there are over 5,000 committed electric school buses across the U.S. Our own Solar Moonshot Program helps organizations make the switch to solar energy affordable by awarding grants to nonprofits. Solar and storage systems act as resilience hubs for schools and the surrounding community, and so far we have helped 9 solar projects happen across the country. Right now, we have $750,000 to help schools across the U.S. adopt solar power. If you know of an educational institution that wants to go solar but requires additional funding, consider sharing or submitting an application, which is located at the bottom of our Solar Moonshot Program page ( 

Times are changing, and it’s more important than ever for public entities to get behind a green future. These switches are vital to improving the health of students, providing equitable education and reducing the human-carbon footprint that worsens climate change. If you are interested in reading more about climate education and why it matters, check out our previous blog post.

Photo credit: Solar Moonshot Program awardee, School District of West Salem

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Earth Day 2023: Invest in Our Planet

Earth Day is an annual event created to celebrate and be thankful for everything the Earth does for us. It is a time to strengthen our relationship with nature, give back as well as find ways to protect our planet for current and future generations. The theme for Earth Day this year is “Invest in Our Planet.” This theme resonates with me (Danylo Lesko, Hammond Climate Solutions Foundation’s Climate Justice Intern) as a current graduate student because education is the best way to invest in our planet. Education is critical in driving the transition to a sustainable future, providing the tools and resources for future generations to adapt to and address the climate crisis justly and equitably. By increasing the accessibility and quality of environmental education and shaping people’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviors towards the climate crisis, the world will see more effective, equitable and participatory change. Education can encourage people to change their behavior and attitudes and help them make informed decisions. It can empower all people and help motivate our youth to take action. 

Investing in climate education is essential to provide the tools and skills needed to drive a transition to a sustainable world. The climate crisis is magnifying the inequalities present in our societies, requiring innovative solutions that address these vulnerabilities. Investing in environmental and climate education can help change behaviors that harm the environment and transform attitudes and knowledge towards actions that promote positive environmental outcomes. Forward-thinking education needs to adapt to a rapidly changing world and provide future generations with the knowledge and practical skills they need to protect our planet and those who depend on it. Orienting education to include climate action and climate justice are important steps that help provide pathways for greater involvement and societal transformation. Enhancing climate literacy by including climate justice and climate equity will help ensure students develop confidence and passion for making a positive difference in society as activists and leaders. 

The climate crisis has already impacted young people with various concerns about their future, including where they will live, what work they will do and their quality of life. There is no national consensus about the importance of climate education, and the U.S. needs to have national science standards. Instead, each state determines what its schools teach, which can vary significantly between states. In 2012, the Next Generation Science Standards were developed to create a science standard for climate education. However, the standards are voluntary, and only some states have adopted these standards. Climate education allows for people to care for the planet while caring for each other. Social-emotional learning refers to the skills people need to be successful in life, such as goal setting, managing emotions, problem-solving, cultivating empathy, relationship skills and self-awareness. Incorporating social-emotional learning in climate education recognizes that humans are part of nature, helping promote an understanding of environmental justice issues and fostering collaborative problem-solving that addresses both planetary and human needs. Investing in climate education provides pathways for future generations to explore solutions that tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow. Investing in climate education is a way for students not only to learn about the climate crisis, but it also provides an opportunity for students to realize their own agency as climate justice leaders through interdisciplinary approaches rooted in social justice. 

Student leaders in Portland, Oregon helped transform climate education in the Portland Public Schools by advocating for a greater focus on climate and equity in their education. These student leaders helped initiate a climate justice curriculum that highlights climate resilience and how responsive the earth and marginalized and frontlines communities are to the impacts of climate change. Throughout the curriculum, students gain a deep understanding of how intertwined the climate crisis and climate justice really are and the ways both impact every aspect of their lives. A big part of this curriculum is looking at solutions and policy, which gives students an opportunity to identify how they can take action to address climate action and climate justice head on. Such approaches provide students with the background information they need to engage in activism that is very meaningful while providing a way to combat climate anxieties they may feel and empowering students to become transformative racial equity leaders and global stewards. When climate education is rooted in social equity that empowers students to take intersectional approaches that address all aspects of the climate crisis it helps lift up communities that are disproportionately affected, helping lift everyone with them. 

Each of us has the effective power to make our voices heard through the choices we make, our civic actions and personal interactions. What we do and how we do it has a huge impact on the planet and civic society. We can use our power to support actions that protect our environment and investing in education provides a pathway for collective action and transformation! We invite you to celebrate Earth Day this year by supporting climate education in your communities, and what better way than turning learning into action? Find an Earth Day event near you here, join in climate activism and celebrate the accomplishments of advancing climate justice and equity! 

Photo credit: Earth Day

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