Innovative "win-win" initiatives seem to be surfacing with much greater frequency these days. Hooray!, we love good news like this, and we need more programs that combine the dual benefits of: 1) equitable access to necessary services (in this case, clean energy for electricity), plus 2) financial savings and discounts that have historically been made available to (wealthier) people who may not "need" the financial subsidies. GRID Alternatives' programs showcase the possibilities for innovative solutions which apply technological advances to some of our most pressing societal needs, with an eye toward addressing local climate impacts.
In this case, a key element of the innovation is where the money is coming from: California’s state cap-and-trade fees, designed to reduce the state's greenhouse gases. It is a beautiful thing that this funding is being applied to efforts to curb pollution, which disproportionately affects low-income households. We look forward to seeing more programs like this across the nation, and we thank California for its leadership. Stay tuned.
While the sun may shine on each and every one of us equally, so far solar power has largely been a much less democratic affair. As solar energy panels become more and more efficient, their application, per a 2013 Center for American Progress study, remains mostly limited to middle-class homes with a median income of between $40-90,000. But a new plan in California will bring free solar power to its poorest citizens, saving each of them hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in electrical costs.
According to The SFGate, the initiative will be led by Grid Alternatives, a nonprofit solar power firm based out of Oakland. Using nearly $15 million dollars raised through California’s cap-and-trade laws, which require companies to purchase “credits” for each ton of carbon dioxide they produce, the firm will provide over 1,600 free solar panel systems by the end of 2016, according to a Grid Alternatives release. The program was first introduced by California State Senator Kevin de León, who spoke at a recent solar panel installation event, saying:
“I introduced SB 535 in 2011 to ensure that our disproportionately impacted communities benefit from investments in clean energy. These investments will bring energy savings, quality jobs, and environmental benefits where they are needed most.”
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