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Maximizing energy efficiency and conservation, rooftop solar installations and other forms of distributed renewable energy should be California’s first priority in meeting the state’s energy needs, followed in descending order of priority by other renewable energy sources and combined heat and power generation. Only after all of these resources are exhausted should new conventional gas-fired generating capacity and transmission infrastructure be allowed.
Meeting the state’s conservation, energy efficiency and solar rooftop potential can greatly reduce the need for the other sources of energy.
Although the City of San Diego leads the state in terms of the number of solar installations and capacity (37 MW), the untapped urban solar potential in San Diego remains vast. Commercial buildings, parking lots and residential solar can provide 7,500 MW (or between 725 to 1125 MW depending on conditions).
According to a 2009 study, by making all homes and buildings energy efficient, the U.S. can reduce non-transportation energy consumption by 23% by 2020 and eliminate 1.1 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. This reduction in greenhouse gas emissions equates to taking the entire U.S. fleet of passenger vehicles and light trucks off the road.
Unfortunately, money and policy decisions slight energy efficiency and rooftop solar in favor of other energy sources. Power companies build massive solar and wind power installations far from where the end-users need the power, necessitating the need for high voltage transmission lines, such as the Sunrise Powerlink. Government agencies invest relatively little in energy efficiency or local solar energy generation, and power companies have no incentive to do so beyond minimal levels for compliance.
In addition to promoting conservation, energy efficiency and rooftop solar through local Climate Mitigation and Adaptation Plans and state policies, Environmental Health Coalition makes certain that low-income communities have access to these benefits.
EHC’s Healthy Homes Program provides energy efficiency education to more than 1,000 low-income households and links them to programs to make their homes more energy efficient. Homes in low-income communities typically are older and built before current energy efficiency standards were in place. Making these homes more energy efficient has a triple benefit: reduces energy use, reduces cost and creates more healthy and comfortable homes.
Small rooftop solar installations, both individually and community-owned and/or leased, provide new potential for low-income communities to increase social equity, environmental quality, energy independence and wealth creation. EHC works with Grid Alternatives to install solar on low- and moderate-income housing using the Single Family Affordable Solar Homes rebates provided by the California Solar Initiative.
As a member of the California Environmental Justice Alliance, EHC sponsored state bill AB 1990 (Fong) --"Solar for All" -- directed at building renewable energy right in our neighborhoods, creating thousands of green jobs, and putting us on the path to cleaner air. Solar for All was a historic bill endorsed by over 80 social justice, environmental, business, and solar groups. While AB 1990 ultimately lost in a close vote on the Senate floor, we continue to advocate for improving existing programs and advancing new solutions to bring more renewable energy into our neighborhoods. For example, we will ensure that revenues generated by and the state's cap-and-trade program fund projects and programs that benefit communities most impacted by pollution and most in need of the investment.
We also closely monitor and engage in improving SDG&E's energy efficiency programs, and recently played a pivotal role in the CPUC's decision to order SDG&E and other large electric and gas utilities to double the number of middle income families receiving free energy efficiency installations, improve access to energy efficiency for residents of multi-family buildings, and improve energy conservation education provided to families.