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Photo of the largest rooftop community solar project in the U.S, located in Carroll County, Maryland

California could lead the nation in Community Solar, if the utilities stop fighting it

California leads the nation in rooftop solar installations but has fallen short in creating a viable community solar market. Now, that can change.

California leads the nation in rooftop solar installations but has fallen short in creating a viable community solar market. Last year, Assembly Bill 2316 (AB 2316) unlocked the potential for California to lead the nation in community solar over the coming years by finally creating legislation that will tell the utilities to create a program that will credit customer’s accounts for renewable electricity produced elsewhere and set a compensation for the bill credit. Now, the utilities are attempting to derail a new proposed program called the Net Value Billing Tariff (NVBT).  

The NVBT would finally allow California renters, nearly 17 million people, and low-income households to take advantage of bill savings while using clean energy. There are a couple of things that make the NVBT different from failed community solar programs in California. The first is that it would require the installation of batteries with community solar projects, to alleviate the strain on the grid during peak hours (currently 4-9 p.m.), once demand is higher and solar energy being exported to the grid is dropping off as the sun sets. The second is that AB 2316 requires that low-and-moderate income households make up a majority of subscribers, ensuring that this program will benefit those who are paying a disproportionate amount of income towards skyrocketing electricity rates. Finally, this program has no caps on capacity, meaning the doors are truly open for developers that want to build these projects. 

One of the biggest advantages of community solar is that the solar power systems can be placed on rooftops and in parking lots, and the systems don’t require large plots of land like utility scale solar does. Community solar can also support local clean jobs and stimulate the regional economy. With the state’s target to procure 85 gigawatts of clean energy by 2035, there is already a large amount of projects in the desert trying to connect to the grid, however community solar projects can be a lot closer to the customers they serve, meaning they are able to connect to the lower voltage grid, eliminating the need for more costly and fire-causing transmission and distribution lines.    

It is no surprise that the only arguments against a program that could potentially replace dangerous peaker plants comes from the state’s three investor-owned utilities. The main argument coming from the utilities is that community solar should be treated like large-scale generators that have a different set of rules and guidelines than other distributed energy resources like rooftop solar. 

The California Public Utilities Commission proceedings tend to move pretty slowly, so there isn’t a definitive date for when we can expect the NVBT to be voted on by the commissioners. California has now passed the September 26 deadline for states to apply to $7 billion in federal funding as part of the Solar For All grants and having a community solar program in place would have made California’s application a lot more competitive.

While the utilities have successfully blocked attempts to make solar more accessible, including the decision to slash the state’s net energy metering program last year, hopefully the state can get it right on this one.

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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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