Legislation to broaden access to clean and affordable renewable energy to millions of Californians who currently can’t take advantage of the state’s renewable programs has advanced in the California Assembly. Senate Bill 43, authored by state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, was approved 11-1 late last month by the Assembly’s Utility and Commerce Committee.
“Three out of four Californians have a strong interest in buying clean energy, and pay into programs to support renewable energy programs, but aren’t able to install their own solar unit or other renewable power generation system for a variety of reasons,” Wolk said in a news release.
“The innovative program established by this measure will give consumers the option of utilizing renewable energy generated off site. It will help the state meet its renewable energy goals while creating thousands of jobs and encouraging more investment in an important sector of our state’s economy. And it won’t require any state funds or shift costs to consumers who choose not to participate.”
SB 43 is based on the successful model established between PG&E, the city of Davis and the PVUSA solar facility — the first shared renewable facility in California — and allows Davis, which is currently limited to roughly 2 megawatts, to expand its generation of renewables up to 20 megawatts.
The bill establishes a program that provides local governments, businesses, schools, homeowners, municipal customers, renters and other customers of the state’s three largest investor-owned utilities with the opportunity to buy a portion of the energy generated at an off-site renewable energy facility. Consumers who participate in the program will be able to save on their utility bills, because it costs less for a larger centralized installation to produce energy than it does for a small private installation.
“SB 43 is groundbreaking,” said Susannah Churchill with the Vote Solar Initiative. “It will offer thousands of renters and other Californians the chance to use 100 percent renewable energy for the very first time.”
Added Strela Cervas with the California Environmental Justice Alliance, “SB 43 will not only meet the goals of California’s current Renewables Portfolio Standard, it will bring much-needed clean energy into areas that need it most. The communities I work in suffer alarming rates of premature death, asthma, lost work days and respiratory-related absences. We need to direct more local renewable energy into low-income communities of color that are impacted first and worst from climate change, while creating sustainable long-term clean energy careers in these communities.
“SB 43 begins to address this green divide by giving low-income communities access to green energy.”
Among those to benefit from SB 43 would be the state’s millions of renters, who are currently unable to install their own on-site energy generation system because they don’t own their home or apartment. Business owners who lease stores or offices, and face a similar problem, also would benefit.
SB 43 also removes significant obstacles that deter schools and local governments from pursuing off-site renewable energy opportunities — and would support the military’s work to ensure national security by allowing the use of empty land in the military’s possession to provide energy for off-base facilities.
The bill’s broad coalition of support includes the League of California Cities, California State Association of Counties, city of San Diego, Los Angeles Business Council, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Small Business California, Clean Power Campaign, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Health Coalition, American Lung Association, The Western Center on Law and Poverty, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and School Energy Coalition.
The bill will next be heard in the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee.