Solar energy bill could help California’s most vulnerable communities

While green energy sources like solar panels can ultimately save money in the long run, they may require some hefty upfront costs that deter homeowners with low incomes from investing in the technology.

A new bill was introduced to California legislators this month that is geared to promote renewable energy sources in communities that may not be able to afford solar panels, yet suffer significantly from the negative effects of long-reliance on fossil fuels. 

Assemblyman Paul Fong, a democrat from Mountain View, authored the bill and explained to California Watch that not only would it open new job opportunities in struggling communities, it could also clean up neighborhoods that are suffering from pollution.

One of the more interesting aspects of the bill is called a "feed-in tariff," in which households that have installed solar panels can actually earn money by selling any excess energy they generate and don't use.

Attorney Michael Hindus explained to the source that he thinks that small solar projects will be easier to carry out with a feed-in tariff system. He added that while the tariff shouldn't be too difficult to employ, the difficulty of implementing environmental initiatives could outweigh the benefits.

"The uncertainty is how to meet the social justice and environmental justice criterion which are set forth in the bill," Hindus told the website. "As it goes through the legislative process, the ease of implementation will need to be balanced with the environmental justice goals."

Professors at University of California Berkeley, the University of Southern California and Occidental College put together an environmental justice screening system that looks at both social and environmental factors. With this information, they can narrow down which areas meet the bill's environmental justice criteria.

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