Energy Commission Adopts Study to Increase Renewable Energy Use in Low-Income Neighborhoods

The California Energy Commission adopted a study today aimed at helping people and businesses in low-income areas invest in, adopt or take advantage of clean energy technologies.

The study stems from a directive in the landmark climate legislation Senate Bill 350. The legislation established new energy efficiency and renewable electricity targets by 2030. It also directed the Energy Commission and California Air Resources Board to examine and publish a report on barriers that keep energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies beyond the reach of residents, businesses and communities in many low-income or disadvantaged areas and to provide recommendations on how to overcome these barriers.

“California has always been a leader on energy efficiency and renewable energy,” said Energy Commissioner Janea A. Scott. “As the state continues its work towards a clean energy economy, it remains important to ensure that low income Californians are part of this transition. This study, which was completed in collaboration with our environmental justice partners, should help us begin to thoughtfully address and dismantle the barriers identified.”

Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller said, “New financing options and greater support for workforce development are some of the recommendations from this study. If implemented, the recommendations could help all communities participate in clean energy advances.”

In conducting the study, the Energy Commission held workshops and met with the public, community-based organizations and other stakeholders at seven meetings around the state from Los Angeles to Ukiah and Oakland to Riverside. The goal at each gathering was to identify barriers hindering low-income and disadvantaged communities from accessing energy efficiency and renewable generation.

“Residents repeatedly said they are interested in clean energy,” said Energy Commissioner David Hochschild, “but they face obstacles that appear insurmountable without help.”

Some of the barriers mentioned included limited disposable income, difficulty in securing financing, low home ownership rates, the age and condition of structures, lack of awareness about energy programs and incomplete or unavailable data, and policy issues.

“The first step in overcoming barriers is identifying them,” said Energy Commissioner Andrew McAllister. “This study gives us a roadmap to move forward.”

Commissioner Karen Douglas said, “The study transforms words to action by recommending regional one-stop shops to help building owners, tenants, and small businesses in low income and disadvantaged communities install clean energy and water upgrades.”

The study provides additional suggested solutions and recommendations such as reducing the cost of solar access to low income customers and communities and making energy efficiency and onsite renewable energy tax credits a high priority for low-income affordable housing rehabilitation projects.

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California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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