$1 Billion Program Aims To Put Solar On Low Income Multifamily Housing In California

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has kicked off a new initiative geared at adding solar to multifamily housing. The Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH) Program will be administered by a coalition of established clean energy and affordable housing organizations in the state with $100 million annually for the first 10 years, provided by CPUC.

SOMAH will be administered by a Nonprofit Coalition that apparently didn’t read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World before locking in their official acronym, but I digress. The official Nonprofit Administration Partnership that will dole out the funds includes the Center for Sustainable Energy, the Association for Energy Affordability and GRID Alternatives. The program aims to install solar on low-income multifamily housing with a special focus on installing solar to reduce electricity bills for residents living in low-income and disadvantaged communities across the state.

“The idea behind SOMAH is to ensure equal access to solar energy for all California households, regardless of income levels,” said Benjamin Airth, a senior specialist in distributed energy resources at the Center for Sustainable Energy. “Low-income renters pay a higher percentage of their income on utility bills, and improving access to solar means lower bills, better housing security and a cleaner, healthier environment for all Californians.”

The SOMAH Program was created as a means of helping California meet its climate goals while also delivering a meaningful reduction in energy bills for low income residents across the state. The program represents the largest investment of its kind in the United States, with $1 billion in committed funding over the next decade.

Funding for the program will come from California’s impressive cap-and-trade auctions that extract compensation for large emitters of CO2 and equivalent greenhouse gases. The funds will be used to directly subsidize 300 MW of solar panels on affordable multifamily properties throughout the state by 2030.

“This is an incredible opportunity to put clean energy to work for whole communities,” said Cathleen Monahan, vice president of program administration at GRID Alternatives. “Each project will generate local clean energy, substantially reduce energy bills for families and provide community members with paid workforce training opportunities to help them access jobs in California’s robust solar market.

The program is slated to launch later this year as the team prepares the official processes, training programs, materials and a bidding portal in support of the official launch.

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