Orange County and Los Angeles solar energy shouldn’t simply be a luxury that only high-income Californians can afford. In order for renewable energy to make a significant impact on the state economy and greenhouse gas emissions, it needs to be accessible to the majority of residents.
Due to the fact that solar panel prices have come down so steeply in the last decade, as well as federal, state and local government incentives, more families have been able to switch to solar and save on their electricity bills.
Low-income earners still struggle to gain access to this technology. That is why Governor Jerry Brown recently signed Assembly Bill 217 (AB 217). This law directs the California Public Utilities Commission to extend two measures that have been crucial to providing low-income families with the opportunity to adopt solar energy solutions for their homes and apartments.
Those two measures consist of the Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) and Multifamily Affordable Solar Homes (MASH) programs. Managed by nonprofit Grid Alternatives, the goal of each program was to set aside funding from the California Solar Initiative (CSI) funding to be used for low-income families.
In total, these communities would receive $108 million in rebates for the purchase of solar panel systems, facilitating the installation of 50 megawatts of solar generating capacity.
The initial time frame for the SASH and MASH programs was set to expire on December 31, 2016, at which point funding would no longer be distributed. AB 217 extends that date by five years to 2021.
Additionally, the law makes provisions to provide job training and education for low-income workers who would like to pursue a career in the solar installation field.
The benefits of a solar electric system for low-income families are clear, as these citizens have the most to gain from saving money on energy consumption. By deriving their energy needs from sunlight and selling excess power back to the grid, they’ll be able to effectively run their meter backwards while also claiming federal and state tax credits and rebates, including the California Solar Initiative incentives described above.
It should also be noted that low-income communities are often disproportionately affected by the public health issues that arise from burning fossil fuels to produce electricity. Los Angeles and Orange County solar are the best ways to mitigate and eventually eliminate such externalities.