The results are in: Solar matters!

latino voters pollOn Thursday, poll results were finalized by the William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI) to reveal the large majority of Latinos in Southern California support and want to see a shift toward rooftop solar energy in our communities. The findings are very similar to those of a survey done last year, and further support EHC's movement for green, clean energy and illustrate the increasing prioritization of solar panel energy in Latino urban neighborhoods most affected by air pollution and dirty energy.

Some key survey results include:

80% believe that our state legislators should make it a high priority to increase the amount of rooftop solar energy in California;
70% support the net metering law that allows owners of rooftop solar panels to receive fair credit for the excess energy they generate. Industry analysts credit net metering as the cornerstone policy for continued solar growth
• The core value statement behind the net metering law is even more popular: 74% agree with the statement "if customers are required to buy power from the utility at a certain price, the utility should have to buy excess power created by customers' solar panels at the same price";
More than half (54%) strongly agreed with the statement "growing the state's solar energy industry will create new jobs in California
60% of Latino voters would be less likely to vote for a candidate who opposed policies to support the green economy

Solar rooftop energy will have numerous positive effects on our communities by:

• Decreasing the carbon emissions catalyzing climate change
Creating more jobs and boosting local economies
• Transitioning neighborhoods away from dirty, toxic air toward clean, breathable air
• Reducing preventable health diseases (such as asthma) directly associated with poor air quality

This survey tells us that Latinos' priorities have become clean energy for both local economy and public health initiatives and solar power will be a major issue in future elections. It is clear our communities are ready for positive environmental changes to happen right in our backyards – or, in this case, right on our rooftops.

For more information on this survey and the results, visit http://causecleanair.org/what-do-latino-voters-in-southern-california-think-about-rooftop-solar/.

whack a mole energy strategyOriginally published in the UT San Diego, February 8, 2013.

In early February, we watched the implosion of the South Bay Power Plant— just one day after the California Public Utilities Commission heard public comments on two new SDG&E-proposed fossil fuel power plants in San Diego.

We're playing a game of Whack-a-Mole with our regional energy policy at ratepayers' expense. Though the demolition of the South Bay Power Plant is striking, we can't let SDG&E continue to turn a blind eye to the reasons why we don't need that plant anymore.

Reliance on fossil fuels has led to an Orwellian-esque era where each year is becoming the hottest on record and we are suffering through a series of costly and deadly weather events. In San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography warns us to expect hotter and more humid mid-summer heat waves that are worse than many inland areas while freshwater in the Southwest is becoming scarcer and our oceans are rising faster than expected.

So why is SDG&E proposing to build unneeded fossil-fuel power plants using the expensive, dirty and outdated centralized power plant model when we're barely scratching the surface of our clean energy and smart grid potential?

San Diego deserves better than this.

On top of the harmful impacts to public health and our climate from the greenhouse gases, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide that would be emitted by these two power plants, the nearly $1.6 billion dollar price tag of the power plants would be passed on to ratepayers over the next 20 years, according to the California Energy Commission.

Perhaps what's most perplexing about SDG&E's proposal, though, is that the energy from these plants is not even needed, according to both the Administrative Law Judge and the lead California Public Utilities Commissioner for the proceeding. Both have issued proposed decisions denying the plants due to a lack of need.

Even without San Onofre coming back online, SDG&E has ample power reserves to "keep the lights on." On the hottest day of the year last September, SDG&E had approximately 24 percent more energy than was needed. Further, the state agency that manages our energy grid, the California Independent Systems Operator, said the way to address the San Onofre shut down was through fixes to our transmission lines, not construction of new power plants.

Our regional leadership must embrace a strategy that prioritizes building a better future for our children by integrating demand management strategies, conservation, local clean energy generation, and energy storage into a smart modern grid that benefits all communities in San Diego.

In fact, San Diego is on the cutting-edge in this arena already. SDG&E proudly announced smart grid breakthroughs just last week that will allow them to prevent blackouts and integrate renewable resources seamlessly. UCSD has its own nationally recognized microgrid -- an on-site energy generation, distribution, and management network that balances renewable energy, electric vehicles, storage, and demand management. The microgrid is connected to SDG&E's grid but can disconnect and operate independently in "islanded mode" as needed, such as during the SDG&E blackout of September 2011, giving UCSD energy independence and security. Our local military bases are also investing in this new smart grid/microgrid approach to maximize the security and reliability of their energy needs. Naval Base Coronado and the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar are both pursuing these new solutions/grid-independence.

Environmental Health Coalition knows from our recent educational efforts within the local communities that small changes to our daily habits can result in drastic reduction in energy use.

With a newly elected Mayor Bob Filner in the City of San Diego and other progressive elected officials who have pledged to pave a new pathway for our energy future, we are excited to build a new energy paradigm as part of San Diego's innovation economy. We look forward to working with our partners in local government, labor, the business community, the military and our educational institutions to create local, family-wage, career-track jobs while reducing our carbon footprint and protecting the health of every San Diego family.

It's time we put a stop to the Whack-A-Mole approach to energy. We must demand more from our energy utility so that it produces big new solutions to the big challenges we face.

Nicole Capretz
Green Energy / Green Jobs Campaign Director for Environmental Health Coalition
City Heights Resident

keystone xl climate change rally franco garcia speaks 2Low-income communities of color have long been on the front lines of pollution and dirty energy, and now we're set to be hit first and worst by climate change. Lack of financial resources, vulnerability to poor air quality from asthma, lack of access to affordable healthcare and transportation, and minimal urban tree canopy means that our communities will be most vulnerable to impacts of climate change like hotter summer heat waves in San Diego and impaired air quality, more frequent extreme storms, diminishing freshwater and increased water prices, and rapidly rising sea levels.

keystone xl climate change kayla race bicycle to rallyCommunities on the front lines know we must do everything we can to stop climate change and the dirty energy economy that exploits our natural resources, jeopardizes public health and safety, and threatens our climate stability. So why aren't our national and energy leaders on the same page?

Our President and federal government are considering approval of the huge new Keystone XL pipeline that would transport oil from the tar sands of Canada—one of the dirtiest sources of oil—all the way to the Gulf coast. And in San Diego, our local utility SDG&E wants to build two new dirty power plants.

Both sets of projects would come at great cost to public health and our climate.

It's time we stand up and say San Diego and the United States deserve better. We must demand more from our energy utilities and our elected officials to produce big solutions to the big challenges we face.

keystone xl climate change rally protestors san diego 2

Thanks to Diane Lesher for the photos.

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.