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