California bill requiring utilities to create community solar programs reaches governor’s desk

California State Legislature Passed AB 2316 written by Assembly Member Chris Ward (D-San Diego) to create community renewable energy programs, such as community solar and storage, to overcome the clean energy entry barriers that affect nearly half of Californians living rent or have a low income, while strengthening the state’s power grid.

This priority note for a diverse coalition of supporters — including advocates for environmental justice, clean energy, taxpayers, homebuilders and commercial real estate — now go to Governor Gavin Newsom, who has until Sept. 30 to respond to the measure.

AB 2316 requires major utilities serving more than 100,000 customers to create and implement programs that “allow taxpayers to participate directly in outside power generation facilities that use eligible renewables,” such as Community Sun.

“This bill rightly places the communities most affected by pollution and climate change at the center of California’s transition to a clean energy future,” said Alexis Sutterman, Energy Equity Program Manager at the California Environmental Justice Alliance. “By signing this bill, Governor Newsom can cut energy bills for low-income families struggling to make ends meet and take a crucial step forward in closing the clean energy gap. This bill will also increase clean energy capacity, which will help California safely and reliably decommission polluting fossil fuel plants in communities for environmental justice.”

Community solar projects are small-scale installations that are often built on landfills, former industrial sites or private land. Customers can sign up as a subscriber and in turn receive credits on their electricity bill based on their share of the project’s generation. Combined with energy storage, projects improve grid reliability by providing power after the sun goes down.

Biden administration deploys community solar to generate $1 billion in utility bill savings in a year pilot program benefit low- and middle-income households. The Federal Inflation Reduction Act includes billions of dollars in new incentives for community solar projects that include storage for low-middle-income families and paying prevailing wages.

AB 2316 would create a common renewable energy program such as common solar + storage. The bill:

  • Gives renters, nearly half of Californians and mostly people of color, access to clean energy and lower electricity bills
  • Builds the reliability of California’s power grid by linking storage to community solar
  • Ensures at least 51% of subscribers are low-income customers
  • Requires applicable wages for employees
  • Avoids transfers of fees to non-participants and maximizes the state’s ability to access federal funds under the Inflation Reduction Act.

“Californians are struggling more than ever with high energy and housing costs. Community solar + storage can put money back in their pockets as they fight climate change and build a more reliable power grid,” said Susannah Churchill, deputy program director, West at Vote Solar. “By signing this bill, Governor Newsom can ensure California leads the nation in equalizing access to clean energy for low-income families, while gaining access to billions in federal funds to help fuel this long-awaited change.”

News release from the Coalition for Community Solar Access

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