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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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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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