16 Social Justice Groups Advocate Expansion of Solar Through Net Metering
Today, 16 social justice leaders representing many diverse communities in California sent a powerful message to the state's key regulatory body on energy matters, urging for more solar and an extension of the current net energy metering program beyond 2017.
Though their advocacy letter to the California Public Utilities Commission, Brightline and other organizations noted how communities of color have disproportionately borne the effects of an energy system dominated by fossil fuels. For instance, shutting down the Potrero Power Plant in San Francisco without building new dirty power plants was a crucial early success in the city's environmental justice movement in 2009. Over the last six years, clean energy programs in the form of GoSolarSF and the California Solar Initiative have led more solar rooftop installations, particularly in low and middle-income households.
Brightline has long advocated for local solar programs in San Francisco, which creates good jobs across a spectrum of education levels. The Solar Foundation Solar Job Census found that the solar industry employed 54,690 people in California in 2014, a number that grew ten times faster than the general economy. And while any local solar development means local job creation, California has programs like GoSolarSF that are designed to further ensure that those jobs are accessible to disadvantaged San Franciscans through a workforce development program. In a Vote Solar report about the benefits of GoSolarSF, the city's solar program creates more than 400 local jobs, and workers of color represent the largest populations served by the Workforce Development program with 40% African American and 22% Latino American job placements.
Powerful leaders of the social justice community were unified today in support of net metering, including: Presente.org, Dr. Luis Pacheco, California Environmental Justice Alliance, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Environmental Health Coalition, Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, Green for All, People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights, The Greenlining Institute, Voces Verdes, Todos Unidos, California Lulac Institute, William C. Velasquez Institute, Communities for a Better Environment, and the Mexican American Political Association.
To expand solar access for everyone in California, the CPUC needs to continue effective and successful programs like net metering. Like rollover minutes on a cell phone bill, net metering makes sure solar customers get fair credit on their utility bills for the excess clean power they deliver to the grid. In place in 44 states, this simple billing arrangement is one of the most important state policies for clearing the way for families, schools and businesses to go solar.
As net metering is made available to customers who go solar after the current cap is reached, the CPUC should explore innovative additional approaches — including virtual net metering, community shared renewables, new tariffs and workforce development programs — to help more low-income families and communities of color participate in and benefit from California’s growing clean energy economy.