Clean energy and climate resilience for all

With the Trump administration failing to lead on climate policy, Bay Area residents should be asking which communities will be hit hardest by the effects of climate change?

The California Environmental Protection Agency has a free online tool, CalEnviroScreen, that enables the public to see statewide maps of disadvantaged communities, those with high rates of pollution and low income. Many of these communities in the Bay Area are located in coastal areas prone to flooding. The areas most at risk for the worst effects of climate change also have the least means to make the investments required to reduce energy waste and adapt to sea level rise.

California is on track to get its greenhouse gas pollution back to 1990 levels by 2020, and then move toward a new target of a 40 percent reduction by 2030. But the state’s model for tackling climate change will only succeed if we make sure the benefits of a clean energy economy extend to all residents, including those in disadvantaged and low-income communities. We must expand financial incentives and targeted programs to make it faster, easier and cheaper for people of all economic backgrounds to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and fortify their communities against sea level rise.

Since transportation is responsible for 39 percent of the state’s emissions, making it easier for drivers to switch from gas-powered cars to electric vehicles is crucial. Gov. Jerry Brown wants to see 5 million electric and other zero-emission vehicles on California roads by 2030, but we will fall well short of this goal unless people can afford the cars and easily access the charging infrastructure. Fortunately, a combination of federal tax credits and state rebates can cut the cost of an electric car by up to $10,000 for everyone, or up to $12,000 for low-income drivers. California and regional agencies like the Bay Area Air Quality Management District may soon introduce even more rebates, which could make the decision to go electric still easier.

PG&E recently started rolling out a program to install 7,500 electric charging stations in the Bay Area with a focus on workplaces and apartment buildings; at least 15 percent of the chargers will be placed in disadvantaged communities. In addition, the state plans to spend $2.5 billion between now and 2025 to increase the number of charging stations in California from 14,000 to 250,000.

Nonprofit “community choice” agencies, such as Clean Power SF, Peninsula Clean Energy and Silicon Valley Clean Energy, have important roles to play in clean energy equity as they provide renewable energy to their customers from resources like solar and wind — and at lower rates than PG&E.

In many low-income communities, utility bills can represent as much as 20 percent of household income. GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit based in Oakland, installs solar panels on Bay Area homes using teams of volunteers and job trainees. Qualifying families can save more than 90 percent on their electricity bills when they switch to solar.

Finally, rising sea levels are expected to threaten businesses and homeowners along the Bay in the near future. Low-income communities in areas like Bayview-Hunters Point and East Palo Alto already experience flooding and are especially vulnerable. The Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge has assembled design teams to work on collaborative solutions at 10 sites in the Bay Area. Those teams are now creating blueprints for strengthening community resilience through education and improved planning for the impacts of climate change.

Climate change threatens everyone. Let’s support the community-based organizations and public agencies that are working on equal opportunity solutions.

Adam Stern and Julie Noblitt are executive director and energy and climate program director, respectively, of Acterra, a Bay Area environmental group based in Palo Alto.

 

Clean Energy and Climate Resilience for All, by Adam Stern and Julie Noblitt, The San Francisco Examiner, April 18, 2018.

Solar and wind plus storage to increasingly replace gas plants

For some years it has been obvious that increasing deployment of solar and wind is cutting into the market share of coal and nuclear power plants in the United States and Europe. These plants are being increasingly retired, and a negligible number of new plants of either technology are being built in either region.

But this is only part of the story. For the past 15 years, the United States in particular has put a massive capacity of new gas plants online, many of which are combined-cycle designs. These plants use fuel more efficiently than “peaker” plants, but also ramp more slowly, and as such are often meant for “mid-merit” applications.

Click here for full article.

Solar and wind plus storage to increasingly replace gas plants, by Christian Roselund, PV Magazine, April 12, 2018.

Residential PACE program expanded California residential solar market 12%

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loans were put in place to finance solar power over the lifetime of projects  – up to, and more than, 20 year terms – allowing for end users to more strategically invest their cash in capital heavy solar and efficiency investments.

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) (PDF of analysis) covered the years 2010-2015, when residential PACE programs were expanding rapidly across California. The analysis suggests 1.1W per house was installed in larger cities, because of PACE.

A key point in this analysis was made by researchers Jeffrey Deason and Sean Murphy:

Our estimates imply that the majority of PV deployment financed by R-PACE programs would likely not have occurred in the absence of the programs. These results suggest that R-PACE programs have increased PV deployment in California even in relatively recent years.

The LBNL analysis noted that California’s residential PACE programs are worth studying, because they have, in many respects, been “uniquely successful” among energy-efficiency and solar PV financing programs. California is the nation’s largest market for PACE financing.

PACE’s unique structuring is what allows for this powerful market penetration. While the loan rates tend to be higher than what you could get from your standard bank provider, other variables drive the product:

  • Term – PACE loans are made designed to last the lifetime of the efficiency upgrade, as long as the product pays for itself before that time frame. In the case of solar, this can be up to 25 years. The biggest benefit of this is that the homeowners net cash position is immediately improved upon, as monthly payments are lower than savings per program requirements.
  • Transferability – because the loan is connected to the property, and not to the homeowner, there is no longer a ‘payback period hesitation.’ This hesitation being when a homeowner is considering selling in the short term, and aren’t sure they’ll completely get their investment back before resale. Since the loan stays with the home, and is spread over a long term, your benefit is proportional to the payments you make.

The specific structuring of PACE was designed to, “extend capital to homes that traditional underwriting may not serve or that may only come with unfavorable terms.” In reference to tranferability, “program homes that sold between 2012 and 2015, 45% of assessments transferred with the property sale and 55% were paid off at the time of sale.”

RenovateAmerica CEO, Roy Gurthrie said on these two variables:

PACE was designed to encourage the adoption of more clean-energy technologies by customers with unique finance demands. It’s encouraging to see evidence that these programs are really moving the needle when it comes to driving deployment of distributed solar PV.

RenovateAmerica pushed this press release to pv magazinebecause they’ve found their HERO loan (their PACE offering) was the only financial product that many of their customers could make use of. The company says they’ve financed over 183 MW of residential solar across 30,000 homes using PACE.

The company also noted, that even though many homeowners don’t end up going with PACE financing, the loan program often drives those homeowners toward researching the program in the first place – and then find financial solutions that better fit their needs.

The overarching analysis of this program should be that PACE has created a structure that addresses a unique subset of financial customers who have specific needs – immediate net positive cash flow and transferability – and this creation has created a non-trivial amount of installation volume.

 

Residential PACE program expanded California residential solar market 12%, by John Weaver, PV Magazine, April 9, 2018.

Residential PACE program expanded California residential solar market 12%

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loans were put in place to finance solar power over the lifetime of projects  – up to, and more than, 20 year terms – allowing for end users to more strategically invest their cash in capital heavy solar and efficiency investments.

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) (PDF of analysis) covered the years 2010-2015, when residential PACE programs were expanding rapidly across California. The analysis suggests 1.1W per house was installed in larger cities, because of PACE.

A key point in this analysis was made by researchers Jeffrey Deason and Sean Murphy:

Our estimates imply that the majority of PV deployment financed by R-PACE programs would likely not have occurred in the absence of the programs. These results suggest that R-PACE programs have increased PV deployment in California even in relatively recent years.

The LBNL analysis noted that California’s residential PACE programs are worth studying, because they have, in many respects, been “uniquely successful” among energy-efficiency and solar PV financing programs. California is the nation’s largest market for PACE financing.

PACE’s unique structuring is what allows for this powerful market penetration. While the loan rates tend to be higher than what you could get from your standard bank provider, other variables drive the product:

  • Term – PACE loans are made designed to last the lifetime of the efficiency upgrade, as long as the product pays for itself before that time frame. In the case of solar, this can be up to 25 years. The biggest benefit of this is that the homeowners net cash position is immediately improved upon, as monthly payments are lower than savings per program requirements.
  • Transferability – because the loan is connected to the property, and not to the homeowner, there is no longer a ‘payback period hesitation.’ This hesitation being when a homeowner is considering selling in the short term, and aren’t sure they’ll completely get their investment back before resale. Since the loan stays with the home, and is spread over a long term, your benefit is proportional to the payments you make.

The specific structuring of PACE was designed to, “extend capital to homes that traditional underwriting may not serve or that may only come with unfavorable terms.” In reference to tranferability, “program homes that sold between 2012 and 2015, 45% of assessments transferred with the property sale and 55% were paid off at the time of sale.”

RenovateAmerica CEO, Roy Gurthrie said on these two variables:

PACE was designed to encourage the adoption of more clean-energy technologies by customers with unique finance demands. It’s encouraging to see evidence that these programs are really moving the needle when it comes to driving deployment of distributed solar PV.

RenovateAmerica pushed this press release to pv magazine because they’ve found their HERO loan (their PACE offering) was the only financial product that many of their customers could make use of. The company says they’ve financed over 183 MW of residential solar across 30,000 homes using PACE.

The company also noted, that even though many homeowners don’t end up going with PACE financing, the loan program often drives those homeowners toward researching the program in the first place – and then find financial solutions that better fit their needs.

The overarching analysis of this program should be that PACE has created a structure that addresses a unique subset of financial customers who have specific needs – immediate net positive cash flow and transferability – and this creation has created a non-trivial amount of installation volume.

 

Residential PACE program expanded California residential solar market 12%, by John Weaver, PV Magazine, April 9, 2018.

PG&E to test price signals, load management strategies in EV charging program

When it comes to electric vehicles, California’s utilities are a lot like therapists: They want to help drivers overcome range anxiety.

For the last few years, the state’s three largest investor-owned utilities have been rolling out plans, pilots and ports in their bid to push transportation electrification. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has set a goal of 5 million zero-emission vehicles on the state’s roads by 2030, and new research indicates it will take about a quarter million new charging ports to get there.

California leads the United States in EVs, but faces the usual challenges to broader adoption — installing ports in difficult-to-serve areas and disadvantaged communities, while preparing to manage the load growth on the horizon.

 

Click here for full article.

PG&E to test price signals, load management strategies in EV charging program, by Robert Walton, Utility Dive, April 4, 2018.

The Time Has Come for Battery Net Metering

Net metering compensates solar customers for the power they contribute to the grid — but if they route the electrons through a battery, they’re out of luck.

Utilities understandably don’t want to pay net-metering rates for batteries charged by grid power. So far, that means solar generation stored in batteries for later use doesn’t earn net metering dollars either. That could change, once the California Public Utilities Commission responds to a petition that, unusually, drew support from both the solar industry and utilities.

“If I’m not charging from your electricity, if I’m charging only from a solar source, the battery is basically an accessory to the solar system,” said Joshua Weiner, who worked on the concept as president of design engineering firm SepiSolar, which specializes in solar plus storage. “All the policies in place support this. […] Somebody just needs to say that this is allowed.”

If certifiably solar-powered batteries can get paid, that could unleash a market signal with sweeping ramifications for solar customers and utilities trying to balance a highly renewable grid.

California’s shift to new time-of-use rates lowers the value of solar at midday, when it floods the wires, and increases the price of evening power. That means reduced payback for traditional solar customers who can only export when the sun shines and then have to buy power at night.

Those who pair solar panels with batteries, though, could store midday generation and sell it to the grid at the peak time-of-use rates, if allowed. That personal profit addresses a systemic challenge: the dreaded “duck curve.”

Solar customers would make more money by exporting just when utilities are scrambling to fulfill the steep ramps required in the evening, when solar generation drops off and electrical demand spikes.

“We’ve become very good at supplying solar power in the daytime; now we need to start supplying solar power in the evening,” said Brad Heavner, policy director at the California Solar & Storage Association.

Play that out on a statewide scale, and it’s not hard to envision the collective behavior of thousands of solar customers delivering peak power that otherwise would come from gas plants. It simultaneously reduces the technical headaches associated with a surplus of midday solar on the wires.

Keeping the utilities satisfied

Advocates for battery net energy metering (NEM) asked the CPUC to consider it in September, through a “petition for modification of decision.” Regulators could announce their ruling within the next couple of months.

Support from utilities would be crucial to the smooth approval of the proposal. If they had credible arguments that doing this would harm the electric grid, it could dissuade regulators. But, unlike in previous NEM debates, the solar industry and the major California utilities appear to be on the same page.

When the California Solar Energy Industries Association (since renamed the California Solar & Storage Association, or CALSSA) filed its petition last September, the three investor-owned utilities responded with a statement of support.

“The Joint Utilities agree with CalSEIA that the time is now ripe for the Commission to provide further guidance on criteria that both maintain NEM integrity and permit certain DC-coupled PV plus storage systems to participate in the NEM program,” their lawyers wrote.

The utilities want to make sure customers don’t earn NEM dollars for selling grid power back to the grid; that would violate the whole purpose of NEM, which rewards solar generation specifically. Utility feedback in the filing dealt with how to achieve this while minimizing possibilities for gaming the system.

The local energy storage industry group was on board with that sentiment as well.

“We take the issue of NEM integrity very seriously, and we think the outcome effectively does that,” said Alex Morris, director of policy and regulatory affairs at the California Energy Storage Alliance.

One way is to ensure the battery cannot export at all, meaning any exports come directly from a solar system. That limits the potential to export at more valuable evening hours, though.

The other option is to modify the firmware in a DC-coupled inverter to render the system incapable of charging from grid power. This would be verified by a third party such as UL to ensure the firmware is set appropriately.

NEXTracker has already completed this testing with its DC-coupled storage-plus-solar tracker product, NX Flow, offering a proof of concept that it can be done.

“The Joint Utilities agree that the firmware solution as described by CalSEIA would provide sufficient assurance that NEM integrity will continue to be maintained,” the filing states.

If a customer figured out how to tamper with the setup, there would be penalties.

“It’s an honor code with a legal stick behind it and a UL logo,” Weiner said. “If you’re in violation of UL or safety codes, you forfeit your interconnection.”

New money

Denying a battery the ability to charge from the grid limits its capabilities.

Imagine a snowstorm approaches in the middle of the night, and a battery that could provide backup power is empty from discharging all evening. The grid charge limitation would prevent it from loading up on power before a potential outage.

“It’s not enabling every potential configuration, but it’s saying, ‘Here are some configurations that would prove you’re not exporting brown power for NEM credits,'” said CALSSA’s Heavner.

The cost of third-party verification would have to be factored into the investment decision as well.

For some users, though, the arrangement’s benefits could easily outweigh its costs.

The assurance of pure solar charging creates solid ground for claiming the federal Investment Tax Credit on the full solar-plus-storage system. Couple that with peak-period NEM revenue, and the situation gets more enticing.

That could be particularly helpful for California’s solar industry, which saw a contraction in residential deployments in 2017. GTM Research expects a contraction in the state’s commercial segment starting in 2018, as the major utilities complete the switch to time-of-use rates.

Commercial customers already have an economic driver to add storage: electrical demand charges, which can make up a hefty share of monthly bills.

California pioneered the commercial storage industry based on demand-charge management coupled with utility contracts. Leading commercial storage providers like Stem and AMS achieve this with standalone batteries, so the net metering policy could attract a different set of developers.

At the macro level, it posits a new approach to system peak demand reduction. California, Arizona, New York and Massachusetts have targeted peak power as an area where clean energy should play a larger role. Doing so could save ratepayers from investing in expensive but little-utilized peaker plants and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity.

One way to do that is a clean peak standard that mandates a percentage of peak hours in the year come from clean sources. Arizona is looking at a regulatory proposal based on that concept, and Massachusetts has a legislative proposal in the works.

NEM for batteries could assist that goal with a relatively minor tweak to existing policy.

 

The Time Has Come for Battery Net Metering, by Julian Spector, Greentech Media, April 2, 2018.

California’s 100% renewable energy initiative gains steam

A broad coalition has come together in support of SB 100 – a bill submitted by California state Senator Kevin de León in 2017. The bill was put on hold before it hit the Governor’s desk, but supporters are renewing their efforts.

The legislation calls for the state:

“To achieve that 50% renewable resources target by December 31, 2026, and to achieve a 60% target by December 31, 2030…it is the policy of the state that eligible renewable energy resources and zero-carbon resources supply 100% of retail sales of electricity to serve California end-use customers and electricity procured to serve all state agencies no later than December 31, 2045.”

Currently, California law mandates that utilities procure 33% of their electricity from renewables by the end of 2020, and 50% by the end of 2030. Projections suggest that electricity utilities will hit their 50% renewable goals by 2020 – a full decade early. PG&E hit its 33% goal in 2017 – well before the December 31, 2020 mandate.

In September of 2017, the electricity utilities and northern California electrical worker unions pushed back hard against the bill. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1245, said Kevin de León had gone back on a promise to include amendments to protect union jobs.

De León’s office denied he’d promised any bill amendments.

The list groups included in the coalition (above imagery) is long:

350 Bay Area, 350 Conejo / San Fernando Valley, 350 Silicon Valley, 350 South Bay Los Angeles, American Lung Association, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Better World Group, California Environmental Justice Alliance, Californians Against Waste, Californians For Effective, Equitable Carbon Pricing, CERES, Earthjustice, Ecovote, Environment California, Fossil Free CA, Greenlining Institute, Mothers Out Front South Bay, NRDC, Reform California – Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Sierra Club California, SoCal 350 Climate Action, The Center on Race, Poverty & The Environment, The Solutions Project, Union of Concerned Scientists and Vote Solar.

With California racing toward their 50% goal early, Hawaii suggesting they’ll reach 100% well before their 2045 goal, energy storage deploying all over California and transmission projects being canceled because of solar, the momentum for more ambitious renewable energy goals is growing.

However, while we did get record solar and renewable output this spring on the California power grid, we’ve also seen a slowdown in utilities procuring large-scale solar in California as they’ve already met their required targets. Renewable energy advocates say this indicates that new goals are necessary.

 

California’s 100% renewable energy initiative gains steam, by John Weaver, PV Magazine, March 27, 2018.

 

 

Distributed solar and efficiency saves California $2.6 billion on power lines

Last week California’s grid operator signed off on the state’s 2017-2018 Transmission Plan, which approved 17 new transmission projects combined at a cost of nearly $271 million.

This may seem like a large number, however 20 transmission projects were canceled and 21 were revised due to energy efficiency and residential solar power altering local area load forecasts. The projected savings from these changes is approximately $2.6 billion.

The majority of the projects were located in the service area of utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), while two of the canceled projects were located in San Diego Gas & Electric territory. PG&E recently announced hitting California’s 33% renewable goal in 2017, and including nuclear and hydroelectric power 78.8% of its electricity came from GHG free sources.

In fact, last year California’s three large investor-owned electricity utilities announced that they will reach 50% renewable energy by 2020 – far ahead of the 2030 Renewable Portfolio Standard goal.

The report suggested that by 2027, there could be almost 13 GW of behind-the-meter solar, with nearly 6 GW installed today. Statewide, self-generation is projected to reduce peak load by more than 8 GW by 2027.

The report includes a section on the contribution of solar on the operation of the grid, Briefing on renewables and recent grid operations. A few pieces of data from the report:

  • September 1, 2017 – peak demand of 50,116 MW
  • February 18, 2018 – minimum net load 7,149 MW
  • March 4, 2018 – maximum 3-hour upward ramp 14,777 MW
  • March 5, 2018 – maximum solar production 10,409 MW

As an example of what the grid will look like with higher penetrations of renewable energy, on February 18th 48.5% of all electricity came from GHG-free sources, with solar and wind peaking at 60.9% of electricity demand.

 

For the full article click here.

Distributed solar and efficiency saves California $2.6 billion on power lines, by John Weaver, PV Magazine, March 27, 2018.

Legal Battle Will Test California Regulators’ Willingness to Stop New Gas Plants

A legal action could eliminate yet another gas plant from California’s permitting queue.

Lawyers representing the Chumash people of Southern California asked the California Energy Commission Friday to terminate power producer Calpine’s application to build a gas and energy storage peaker plant on the banks of the Santa Clara River in Ventura County.

The proposed site for the 255-megawatt Mission Rock gas plant occupies land considered sacred by the Chumash, who call the river Utom and have lived in its watershed for generations. In the face of community opposition, and an evolving regulatory mood, Calpine requested an open-ended suspension of its own application earlier this month.

The suspension would postpone a final decision on the application, maintaining the gas plant as a lingering possibility. Earthjustice lawyers filed a motion Friday to reject that suspension and dismiss it outright. If regulators agree, it will add another data point to a recent trend of regulatory rejection of gas infrastructure.

The proposed Mission Rock plant sits just a few miles inland from the proposed Puente plant in Oxnard, which drew the disapproval of regulators once it was clear that energy storage and other assets could provide the same reliability service for the local grid. A new procurement is underway to find cost-effective, fossil-free alternatives.

Mission Rock would be a merchant plant, ostensibly serving the same need that utility Southern California Edison already contracted for with Puente. That move looks risky for Calpine, which grapples with money-losing plants elsewhere in California.

“When they filed this application, Puente had already been awarded the contract for that area,” said Angela Johnson Meszaros, an attorney with Earthjustice who filed the motion. “When they filed the application, there was no energy need.”

The California Public Utilities Commission recently rejected reliability must-run status for three Northern California Calpine plants and called for PG&E to procure storage for grid reliability instead.

Now Mission Rock could be the latest casualty in a state that has grown increasingly hostile to gas.

“Diligently pursue”

The CEC requires that applicants diligently pursue their applications, Meszaros said. The commission can dismiss an application that isn’t being diligently pursued.

That’s what should happen with Mission Rock, she argued in the motion.

After Calpine requested an open-ended suspension, the committee asked it to specify how long exactly it wanted to put the proceeding on hold.

In light of “uncertainty” surrounding California’s technological transition in how it deals with grid reliability, lawyers for Mission Rock asked that the suspension last until the resources contracted to solve the local grid needs are “final, non-appealable, constructed, and operating.”

That logic suggests Calpine wants to wait in case SCE’s procurement process somehow collapses or fails to produce real world results. Puente wasn’t needed online until 2021, to accommodate the retirement of once-through cooling plants, so these conditions would create a nearly three-year freeze.

“There is no uncertainty about how this is going to play out. […] They’ve identified resources that clearly are going to be able to meet that need,” Meszaros said. “The request for a suspension is further evidence that there isn’t a way for [Calpine] to diligently pursue this application.”

The stakes of gas

California has legislative mandates to produce cleaner electricity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Those goals have entered the realm of regulatory decision-making.

“In the context of the [investor-owned utilities], the PUC has been very definitive that they don’t see a need for making long-term investments in fossil fuel infrastructure,” Meszaros said. “We are no longer living in a world where there are energy services that only fossil can provide.”

The Mission Rock site prompted a whole different set of localized concerns.

The Chumash people refer to the river as “Utom,” which means “phantom river,” said Geneva Thompson, staff attorney at the Wishtoyo Foundation, a native-led nonprofit dedicated to preserving ancient Chumash culture (Wishtoyo worked with Earthjustice to intervene in the case).

“Part of the year it’s completely dry; sometimes it’s close to flooding,” she said. “The banks change all the time. It’s a very dynamic, powerful river.”

It runs unencumbered by concrete channels, a rarity for Southern California. Its banks feature a riparian ecosystem that has sustained Chumash gatherers for generations.

“Since time immemorial up to present day, the Chumash people have lived in a relationship with Utom,” Thompson said.

The construction of a gas plant would disrupt that ecosystem. The Wishtoyo Foundation believes that digging pipelines to bring gas and water to the plant would rupture ancient village and burial sites. And stormwater runoff or the river’s cyclical floods could sweep pollutants from the plant site into the water.

Calpine has said it would pipe in recycled water from elsewhere and handle the wastewater, rather than tapping the river for those needs, Thompson noted. That leaves the question of what purpose is served by building on the river in the first place.

Then again, purpose may be beside the point when the plant itself would be redundant to a capacity procurement that’s already underway.

 

Legal Battle Will Test California Regulators’ Willingness to Stop New Gas Plants, by Robert Walton, Greentech Media, March 26, 2018.

Threat to Energy Efficiency and Weatherization Program Could Hurt California’s Resilient Future

Legislators this week started discussions to decide the fate of the Low-Income Weatherization Program (LIWP), a program that brings energy efficiency and utility bill savings to low-income California families. The program, whose funding Gov. Brown proposed eliminating in his proposed budget, is financed through the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which directs money collected from polluters through cap-and-trade and invest it in cleaning the environment and encouraging economic growth within the most vulnerable communities.

LIWP provides free or deeply discounted energy efficiency upgrades and solar power systems for low-income residents in California’s most polluted and economically underserved neighborhoods. As the governor’s proposed budget goes through a process of revision and negotiations in both legislative houses, decision-makers and community members alike should understand that eliminating this program would threaten the potential to help low-income residents live a more resilient life.

WEATHERIZATION BENEFITS WHOLE COMMUNITIES

LIWP is the only weatherization program that targets low-income residents in communities that suffer the most from the health impacts of pollution and climate change. The same residents have also experienced systemic exclusion from accessing clean energy investments, and as a result, they have received fewer opportunities to build wealth within their homes and communities.  LIWP helps to address these health and economic inequities.

The program aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy efficiency within both affordable single-family and multi-family homes. However, and perhaps more important to community members, LIWP also provides transformative benefits that help people in disadvantaged communities become more resilient to economic burdens and climate impacts. These benefits include energy measures that support healthy, safe, and comfortable homes and investments that provide affordable homes, lower energy bills, create jobs, and increase the value of property.

AN ENERGY EFFICIENT HOME IS A RESILIENT HOME

Low-income people are especially vulnerable to extreme weather conditions exacerbated by climate change, such as heat stress and cold exposure. Energy efficiency measures installed through LIWP can protect families from these effects. They help residents lower their energy bills and increase the value of their homes by fixing structural issues like leaky windows or inadequate attic insulation and by providing the most up to date appliances and equipment.

Roughly 500,000 to 800,000 farmworkers reside in California and they are excluded from most legal protections that ensure safe and healthy living conditions. Because of their working environment, unreliable income and unstable housing, farm workers often face hazardous living conditions at work and at home. In recognition of these issues, LIWP’s administrator, the California Department of Community Services & Development, began to focus the LIWP multi-family program on affordable housing occupied by farmworkers to help alleviate these dangers. CSD also developed a component of its single-family program that focuses on the direct installation of energy efficiency measures and renewable energy systems for farmworker residents. This is just one example of how the program identifies specific needs within a community and provides targeted solutions. LIWP also addresses respiratory illnesses by improving air quality and educating residents about household hazards like mold, carbon monoxide, and lead paint.

A less obvious but equally vital effect is the impact of energy efficiency programs on local workforce development and job creation. Providing opportunities to high-road green jobs helps our communities be more financially secure. LIWP is one of the few clean energy programs in California that intentionally directs funds towards the upward mobility of our communities by providing job training and job placement for local and low-income residents in energy efficiency and solar projects.

For example, GRID Alternatives, LIWP’s single-family solar program administrator, has provided hands-on training for more than 7,000 individuals in solar installation in the past three years. Association for Energy Affordability, LIWP’s large multi-family program administrator, similarly uses its workforce development expertise to train and support workers entering the weatherization job force for the first time. Efforts like this empower community members to not only adopt clean energy measures but also take a bigger role in creating a cleaner and more economically resilient future for their families.

LIWP’S POTENTIAL

Let’s look beyond 2018 and really imagine what it would look like for LIWP to achieve more than just weatherization, energy savings, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. While LIWP is certainly not the silver bullet that will solve all existing environmental and economic inequities, Gov. Brown’s original decision to fund LIWP led to millions of dollars of direct and indirect benefits to California’s most vulnerable populations— and we do not want this to stop. We want to see LIWP achieve its full potential to transform vulnerable neighborhoods into resilient and empowered communities by improving public health and reducing the wealth gap.

Greenlining stands with coalition partners throughout the state that are strongly advocating for the continuation of LIWP funding. Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA) is a coalition of non-profits that advance healthy, affordable solutions for underserved renters. The California Climate Equity Coalition (CCEC) is a network of organizations across the state aimed at ensuring equitable implementation of climate investments in disadvantaged communities. Through legislative and regulatory advocacy, CCEC prioritizes support for programs such as LIWP. These coalitions, along with California Environmental Justice Alliance and Sustainable Communities for All strongly urge the governor and legislators to revise the budget and fund LIWP at $75 million.

Amee Raval is the Asian Pacific Environmental Network’s Policy and Research Associate and is a contributor to this blog. Carmelita Miller is Greenlining’s Energy Legal Counsel. Follow her on Twitter.

 

Threat to Energy Efficiency and Weatherization Program Could Hurt California’s Resilient Future, by Carmelita Miller, The Greenlining Institute, March 26, 2018.