California Implements Large-Scale Low-Income Community Solar Initiative

by Deedee Chao

In October 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed in the country’s largest solar bill designed for low-income renters, creating the Multifamily Affordable Housing Solar Roofs Program under AB693. This new program is the successor to the Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing (MASH) Program established in 2008 as part of the California Solar Initiative, and aims at expanding the program to have a larger impact on low-income households.

The California Public Utilities Commission cites great demand and success in green developers collaborating in low-income housing projects to install rooftop solar as a reason for updating the program, and aims to increase renewables by setting a goal of at least 300 megawatts of rooftop solar POV on each multifamily affordable housing project.

The bill outlines an investment of $100 million per year over the course of ten years, starting this year, in low-income housing rooftop solar projects. The funding will come from the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Option Revenues, which is the cap-and-trade money the California government collects from large GHG emitters. The original MASH program was funded by subsidies taken from what utility ratepayers paid for their own electricity usage, so this new funding scheme both eases the burden once paid for by electric ratepayers statewide, and illustrates an interesting exchange and transition between the traditional energy and the renewable energy sectors.

The California Public Utilities Commission is hoping that this new program will set a standard for green energy, low-income housing projects nationwide, especially in light of President Obama’s proposed Climate Action program, which calls specifically for solar system installations in federally subsidized housing to be implemented by 2020.


Marois, Michael B. and Bloomberg, Alison Vekshin. 2015. California Governor Seeks to Increase Renewable Energy Mandate to 50 Percent. Renewable Energy January 6, 2015. (


Movellan, Junko. 2016. California Bridges the Green Divide with Nation’s Biggest Solar Program for Low-income Renters. Renewable Energy February 2, 2016. (



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