Joy WilliamsOne recent workday when I had to drive to work instead of taking the bus, I found myself, not surprisingly, stuck in traffic. However, I had some great news to think over as I inched along - EHC's statewide game-changing victory at the PUC. This victory will create more energy efficiency education in more homes and help produce more green jobs for San Diego and California

Just before I turned off the engine of my Prius, I looked at the thermometer – winter is coming and the evenings are getting cooler. But I knew that once I got in the house it would be nice and warm. Nice and warm not from heating the house all day, but from all the energy upgrades we have done over the past two years. We put in new windows, and the white glove guys at ASI tested our house and figured how to make our house energy efficient. We got a new furnace and new heating ducts, and we got new insulation to keep our indoor temperature moderate.

We also got a nice check from SDG&E to help cover our costs. (Thanks to the ratepayers for that! You and I are funding SDG&E's rebate program – the funds don’t come out of their profits or the goodness of their hearts. They are required to spend money to help people reduce energy use).

I walked to the front door thinking about our $37 SDGE bill that I had just opened—all smiles. And there, right in front of the door, was a box. I saw that SDG&E sent it. My first thought was to write "return to sender" on it and send it back, but curiosity got the better of me.

Inside were “eco friendly” gifts and a note thanking us for our energy upgrades. We got a ball cap and a t-shirt with the SDG&E logo and the statement that we are energy efficient. I like to wear hats and T-shirts, but I don’t like to wear black hats or black shirts.

Rule number one in being energy efficient: black clothes absorb heat and make you hotter; light colored clothes reflect heat and make you cooler.

I looked at the tags and found out that the shirt was made in the Dominican Republic.

Rule number two: to reduce fuel consumption, don’t buy clothes shipped long distances to reach you.

But there was more: plastic herb garden containers, a plastic lunch bag, and a plastic water bottle.

Rule number three in being energy efficient, don’t buy things you don’t need as it takes energy to make the product, energy to bring the product to you, and energy to bring the product to the landfill.

Memo to SDG&E:

We don’t want more “stuff.” Stuff creates greenhouse gases. Moving it around creates more. We also don’t want three more fossil fueled power plants in our region. What we DO WANT from SDG&E is for them to move quickly toward a sane energy future, with policies and resources that put local, renewable energy sources ahead of fossil fuels. EHC's victory at the PUC in early November established groundwork for those improvements. No, we didn't suggest that t-shirts be a different color, or that they give out lunch-boxes instead of lunch-bags. We said that low-income families benefit more from one-on-one education vs. radio commercials to help save energy. We said that more middle-income families like mine need access to energy upgrade rebates. We said to expand green job training and get people back to work.

Beyond our recent victory, I'd like SDG&E to get out of the way of progress and let localities form their own nonprofit electric cooperatives that offer choices to residents about what kinds of energy solutions they want.

That would be the perfect gift to thank me for energy conservation.

low-income-communities-san-diego-need-solar-tooI live in a condo in La Jolla and see solar installations sprinkled around my neighborhood. That's a good thing.

What would be better? If I looked around and saw solar on every rooftop in La Jolla— including my own— and in every neighborhood. That vision is both possible and feasible.

But despite the fact that costs are going down exponentially every year, new data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows that San Diego County is using less than 3% of the solar potential SDG&E estimates is possible.

What's worse is that on my bike ride down the coast to work, I see less and less solar as I glide through Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, and Downtown. And by the time I get to Barrio Logan and then my office in National City, I don't see any solar.

The NREL data shows that my eyes are not deceiving me and the green divide is very much a real thing. Low-income, highly polluted neighborhoods like Barrio Logan, Sherman Heights, and National City have very little solar compared to wealthier neighborhoods like La Jolla and Rancho Bernardo.  In fact, La Jolla has nearly 4 times as many solar installations and over 2 times the solar kilowatts as Barrio Logan, National City, and Sherman Heights COMBINED. Rancho Bernardo has nearly 7 times as many installations and 2.4 times the kW capacity as Barrio Logan, National City, and Sherman Heights combined.

Don't believe me? See for yourself by exploring The Open PV Project website.

We don't need to let our clean air, climate, health, and economy be threatened any longer by existing or new expensive dirty power plants like the ones recently proposed near University City and Mission Trails—which were supported by our own, purportedly "smart" utility, SDG&E.

There is huge untapped potential in San Diego's low-income neighborhoods, especially on commercial rooftops, and there's even still potential for more solar in La Jolla and Rancho Bernardo. We have the technical potential to meet the County's peak energy demand using just rooftop solar, according to study co-authored by SDG&E.

So what are we waiting for, San Diego? It's time for energy independence.

-Kayla Race

IMAGE CAPTION: A visual display of the solar divide: The region's highest-income areas like La Jolla, Rancho Bernardo, and Scripps Ranch, and the City of Del Mar pop out in dark red, indicating the highest numbers of solar installations per capita. Lower-income neighborhoods in the City of San Diego, like Barrio Logan, Sherman Heights, and City Heights, are left in the dust with light yellow indicating their dismal number of solar installation. Click on the image to get a full-sized image.

"Maria Martinez de - "Arriba Barrio Logan!" - we want community 2 speak for themselves & she nailed it. So proud

In less than 160 characters, Nicole's tweet sums up an inspiring and educational trip for our staff and community members to Sacramento to rally support for AB 1990. This two-day event filled with meetings with decision makers, educational forums and an energetic rally on the capitol steps also brought together environmental justice advocates from across the state. We formally refer to this group as California Environmental Justice Alliance. And together, we made a statement that all communities deserve clean energy and green jobs. This is what we call Solar for All.

Learn more about this historic statewide bill that is heading to the senate for a vote. And enjoy a few photos from our trip to Sacramento.

solar-for-all-2solar-for-all-3solar-for-all-4solar-for-all-5solar-for-all-6solar-for-all-7solar-for-all-7solar-for-all