New California Solar Gardens Law will Provide Renewable Energy to Renters, Small Business

Governor Brown has signed into law new legislation enabling Californians who cannot install their own solar, wind, or other renewable power generation system to obtain up to 100 percent renewable energy through PG&E, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric beginning in the Fall of 2014.

After a hard fought three year effort, renters, small businesses and millions of others utility customers throughout California will soon be able to utilize wind, solar, and other forms of clean and affordable renewable energy through their utility provider.

“Finally, the 75 percent of Californians currently unable to utilize solar power or other renewable energy, all the renters in California, all the businesses who lease, all those living in apartments and condos, everyone with low income or poor credit scores, will now be able to do so. Without any state funds or shifting costs to consumers who choose not to participate,” said Lois Wolk, the author of signed Senate Bill 43. “I look forward to seeing this unique and exciting program provide these Californians with access to clean renewable energy while creating thousands of jobs, encouraging more investment in an important sector of our state’s economy, and helping the state to meet its renewable energy goals.”

The law establishes the Green Tariff Shared Renewables Program, a program through which the three utilities will make 600 MW of renewable energy—enough electricity to power about 360,000 homes—available to customers who wish to subscribe for a higher percentage of clean, renewable energy than the 20 percent of renewables currently available through their utilities’ power mix.

“SB 43 opens the door for thousands of renters and other utility customers to go solar for the first time,” said Susannah Churchill, Policy Advocate with the Vote Solar Initiative. “We thank Governor Brown, Senator Wolk and other legislators for their leadership in creating an innovative new model that will allow more Californians to choose 100% renewable energy.”

Of the renewable energy projects that will provide the 600 MW, projects generating a total of 100 MW must be built within communities determined by the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) to be disproportionately affected by environmental pollution and other hazards that can harm the public’s health.

Another 100 MW will be reserved for residential customers, including renters and those who can’t afford solar panels or other means of generating renewable power.

“SB 43 will not only help California meet its renewable energy goals, it will bring much-needed clean energy into areas of the state that need it most,” said Strela Cervas with the California Environmental Justice Alliance. “The communities I work in suffer alarming rates of premature death, asthma, lost work days, and respiratory related absences. This program begins to address this green divide by directing 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.”

The bill’s broad coalition of support includes the League of California Cities, Los Angeles Business Council, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, California Solar Energy Industries Association, SolarCity, Clean Power Campaign, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Health Coalition, American Lung Association, The Utility Reform Network (TURN), The Western Center on Law and Poverty, California Interfaith Power and Light, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, and School Energy Coalition.

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