Black Legislators Support Equitable Transition to Solar Energy

Black Legislators Support Equitable Transition to Solar Energy

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The National Black Caucus of State Legislators recently released its 2014 Winter White Paper entitled, The Need to Develop & Implement Equitable Energy Policies.  In it, the august organization of roughly 675 black state legislators across the country sets forth a bold agenda for ensuring that the costs of transitioning to more renewable energy sources is not borne on the backs of low-income people.

Previously, NBCSL adopted a resolution “urging equitable distribution of electricity grid systems” in which it encouraged state legislators to:

  1. adopt net metering policies that ensure customers with distributed generation systems, like rooftop solar arrays, pay their fair share for the upkeep of the electric grid;
  2. develop policies for solar customers that increase cost transparency and determine whether non-solar customers actually benefit from the presence of distributed generation technologies to the electric grid; and
  3. support programs that help fund energy efficiency efforts by low-income households and communities.

NBCSL is enthusiastic about efforts to transition to cleaner, greener sources of renewable energy, particularly in view of the detrimental affects climate change and environmental injustice can have on people of color and members of low-income communities.  In pursuit of a more equitable energy future, the organization is insistent that such a transition does not further disadvantage people who already pay a disproportionate share of their income to electricity costs.

In this report, NBCSL expresses its concern about the regressive nature of distributed generation policies. Increasingly, people who are able to afford things like rooftop solar panels are able to generate electricity for themselves, relying on the electric grid to supply any excess power they may need during off-peak times or when they have not produced enough energy on their own. If people produce more electricity than they need, they can sell that power back to their energy provider (i.e. the local utility company) and be compensated. NBCSL notes that these policies favor more affluent homeowners and place a disproportionate burden on low-income people and individuals who either rent their homes or cannot afford distributed generation policies.

NBCSL promotes clean energy, and wants to be sure that as we transition to increased use of more renewable energy sources the policies supporting the regulated utility environment do not unfairly overburden those least able to afford it.  As such, NBCSL set forth five guiding principles that should be adhered to in implementing more equitable energy policy:

  1. Ensure that energy policies reflect core notions of equity and justice.
  2. Avoid regressive cost allocation in distributed generation programs.
  3. New regulatory frameworks should strive to distribute the costs of innovative new utility services more evenly.
  4. Study these issues in more detail and inform new policies with data.
  5. Assure robust consumer protections.

As noted in the report, NBCSL “recognizes renewable energy’s potential” but is wary of current policies that “exact an inequitable and unjust cost on minority, low-income and fixed-income consumers.”  In promoting its policy agenda, NBCSL wants to be sure that policymakers do “not allow outdated policies to create a consumer caste system where some can utilize and benefit from solar policies at the expense of our most vulnerable of citizens.”

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  1. It seems as though in some municipalities, especially in low income areas the usage of utility rates are higher. There is a growing concern, that there is a need to support Equitable and Fair Distribution of utility rates, services and charges…..This brings to our immediate attention of ;The California Drought and The Growing Influence of Climate Change….While we do not know yet what the rest of the wet season will bring and while we hope for the Major Storms needed to recharge our rivers, groundwater and reservoirs..it seems increasingly likely that California will not see enough precipitation to get out of the very deep deficit that three years of drought[so far] have produced….There is however, some misleading and confusing information out there. Some are already arguing that California’s rainfall is nearly back to normal or that because there may have been more serious droughts in the past we needn’t worry anymore….Most of these claims are based on misunderstandings of California’s hydrology water systems, or current conditions, and on very narrow definitions of ”drought” first, to understand the data, it is vital to realize that California’s”water year” runs from October 1 to September 30. This is not the” calendar year” [January to December]. This distinction is important, because mixing data from different water years produces inaccurate analysis…..Second, it is important to understand that”drought” means….from a practical perspective…far more than just”precipitation deficit.”California’s drought is the result of several factors; how much precipitation we receive in rain and snow; how much water is available after taking into account reservoir storage, soil moisture, and ground water; additional losses of water due to higher than normal temperatures[ the past three years have been by far the hottest in California’s record]; and the human demand for water. If all of these factors are included, the current drought in California can be considered the worst in recorded….California will not dry up and blow away: Drought means less water than normal, not zero water…..But if the drought continues, increasingly difficult and costly decisions will have to be made, and the ecological, economic, and human impacts will grow….”But this is no time to be a Pollyanna.” We had better continue to prepare for the worst, since there is no indication that nature will bail us out in the near future. California is the only state that doesn’t control their underground Aquifers.’ If a Farmer or Rancher has wells, they just use all they want. This simply can’t continue…”Sooner rather Later, problems will show up from Aquifers being basically depleted.

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