Based in Oakland, California, The Greenlining Institute is working to ensure that the benefits of DERs reach low-income communities and communities of color. According to Greenlining’s Energy Equity Director Stephanie Chen, low-income communities are disproportionately affected by fossil fuel generation and stand to benefit greatly from a transition to clean energy sources.
These benefits include not just lower monthly electric bills, but also better air quality, an influx of local jobs, more resilient homes and communities, and a sense of community pride that comes from producing clean, renewable energy directly in the community.
Greenlining is currently working on two projects in California that will deliver tangible benefits to low-income communities. The first is the Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH) program, which will roll out later this year and provide up to $100 million annually over 10 years to install solar on rooftops and parking lots at affordable housing properties.
The bill that created this program also included provisions to promote local job growth and to ensure that renters – not just property owners – will realize benefits via savings on their monthly bills. In addition, the program provides renters with energy-efficiency retrofits, which can provide additional health and comfort benefits to the tenants. Some buildings will also have battery storage installed, which improves resilience.
The second major initiative for Greenlining is transportation electrification (TE), with an emphasis on ensuring that TE benefits the communities that need it most. According to Chen, about 40 percent of California’s greenhouse gas emissions are due to its transportation sector, and these pollutants disproportionately affect low-income communities and people of color, since these communities are more likely located near to major highways, ports and airports. For these communities, there are clear environmental and public health benefits from widespread TE. In addition, EV charging during the day can help tame the duck curve, ensuring that Californians get the most benefits from their investments in solar generation.
Greenlining’s TE strategy for California includes additional financial incentives for purchasing electric vehicles (EVs) for low- and moderate-income families, affordable financing provisions for these consumers, accessible EV charging for low-income communities and expanded car-sharing programs.
One of the most exciting initiatives, according to Chen, is electrified public transit. The batteries from large buses can be scheduled to power the grid when not in use, which can bring in additional revenue for the transit agencies. This, in turn, can allow these agencies to purchase more buses and improve services for the community.