Community Solar: Bad for Trump, Good for Angelenos
Written by Felipe Escobar, Community Organizer
Despite the election of Donald Trump, the revolution for renewable energy for everyone will not go dark as Los Angeles adopts a Community Solar. While Donald Trump is spending his weekends in Mar-a-Lago with dirty energy executives, in Los Angeles thanks to efforts by local grassroots organizations such as Pacoima Beautiful and the RePowerLA coalition, LADWP recently adopted plans to start a new pilot project that will create a community solar program, which will enable city renters to finally be able to have access to solar energy. The concept of community solar programs is not revolutionary in itself, but it is a vital tool to help accelerate the Solar Revolution movement.
Community solar programs function by allowing a pool of people to buy a share in a solar garden. The energy generated by these solar gardens goes to the general grid, and from the grid, power is sent back to subscribers of the programs, therefore allowing participants to reduce their energy costs. Such programs have been around since 2006 when the city of Ellensburg, Washington started one of the first community solar programs in the nation. Since then, these programs have been extremely successful. An example is Colorado’s Xcel Energy Solar Program, which saw its available subscriptions sell out in less than 30 minutes when it was launched in 2012. Community solar will be great for renters because it will not require credit checks or maintenance costs, or even require a costumer to have a place for the solar arrays. Renters just will need to be a client of LADWP to qualify.
In places like Los Angeles where 64% of residents are renters, community solar will enable renters to be part of the solar revolution which the City’s homeowners are already embracing and enjoying. We know this because according to Environment California, Los Angeles was ranked no.1 in the nation for solar installations in 2015, through $293 million in incentives rewarded. One main reason why homeowners like going solar is to help the environment. Now thanks to the new community solar program that is set to start in 2018, Los Angeles will cement itself as the lighthouse that will guide the nation towards more sustainable energy solutions.
It’s important for Angelenos to embrace such programs and any other renewable sources of energy in general because there is a real threat for our nation’s economy to take a turn for the worse since Donald Trump is proposing massive tax cuts, with no clear plans to generate back revenue, all while he plans to slash important social programs. Regan did the same thing, and look what it created. Income inequalities exacerbated to unprecedented levels. But by embracing solar, we are building a layer of economic security that will help ensure that Angelenos can still have access to jobs when the economy starts to feel the consequences of Trump’s actions. We can always count on solar and green jobs to save the day when it comes to job security, since according to the Political Economy Research Institute, clean energy investments create three to four times as many jobs as an investment in the fossil fuel industry can create, because it takes more labor to manufacture, install, and service green energy sources than it takes to just extract them. Another advantage of green jobs is that they are reliable. We saw this at the peak of the recession (2008 through 2010) when the pace of green jobs outpaced traditional job growth 2-1. These jobs exist in LA where programs such as the Utility Pre-Craft Trainee Program (UPCT) provide the opportunity for people to work in this industry.
Now the next step for everyone is to keep LADWP accountable and make sure that the program is adopted without delays, and is implemented in a way that improves greater access to solar energy in LA’s solar deserts such as Pacoima and Wilmington. One way to do that is by joining local environmental organizations such as Pacoima Beautiful. Trump has many ideas for increasing dependency on dirty energy, but those ideas can go park on the 405 freeway. LA is better than that.