Solar Access for Disadvantaged Communities in California

by Maithili Joshi

Solar energy is widely used throughout California. It is versatile, makes sense financially, and has a great effect on the environment, offsetting more polluting forms of energy production. However, one of the biggest issues faced by solar energy is the ability to distribute it to low-income and disadvantaged areas that would greatly benefit from such a program.

This week, California passed a bill that will allow greater distribution of solar energy into lower-income communities around the state. Even though solar energy, and other renewable energy sources, have been a great asset towards California, it has not overcome barriers that would include disadvantaged communities. Solar energy tends to be a more expensive, and is not helpful for people who do not own homes, live in multi-tenant buildings, people with low credit scores, and those with less expendable incomes, among other issues. This new policy will try and meaningfully address these issues and allow more participants in California’s clean energy economy.

To do this, the independent Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) is attempting to push through their CleanCARE proposal, it would use funds from their California Rates for Energy (CARE) program to purchase renewable generation from a third-party owned renewable energy facility located in a disadvantaged community. So, these communities would be investing in a package of shared renewable energy facilities, energy efficiency measures, energy storage and demand responses, in effect providing a bill discount rather than a rate discount. The end goal of the CleanCARE option is to produce bill savings for low-income families at a greater level than what they receive under the CARE program.

Hopefully, the CleanCARE program would help stretch the existing CARE program to more low-income areas and receive a higher discount on rates for solar energy. They also envision providing opportunities to locate renewable energy facilities in disadvantaged communities, which may bring local economic development and job training programs.

Renewable Energy World (

Interstate Renewable Energy Council (