June 2, 2023
In California, the push towards clean energy is in full force, with the state setting ambitious goals to achieve 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045. However, as we work towards this goal, it is important to ensure that everyone has equal access to the benefits of this transition. This is where equitable electrification policy comes in.
Equitable electrification policy refers to the implementation of clean energy policies and programs that prioritize serving underserved communities and address the historical injustices that have led to energy poverty and environmental injustice. In California, this means ensuring that low-income communities, communities of color, and other vulnerable populations have equal access to clean energy solutions and the benefits that come with them. To formalize this commitment, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) adopted an updated Environmental and Social Justice (ESJ) Action Plan and integrated those ESJ goals and actions into its Distributed Energy Resources (DER) Action Plan last year. There are numerous examples of how California is taking action and supporting programs to make equitable electrification a reality.
An example of how California is addressing equitable electrification can been seen in the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP provides assistance to low-income households to help pay for their energy bills and improve energy efficiency in their homes. This program has been crucial in helping underserved communities access clean energy solutions, and it is one of the many ways California is working towards its goal of providing equitable electrification.
Another way California is addressing equitable electrification is through the California Climate Investments (CCI) program. This program uses funds from the state’s cap-and-trade program to invest in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide benefits to disadvantaged communities. Through CCI, California has invested in a range of projects, including energy efficiency upgrades for low-income households, solar installations in underserved communities, and electric vehicle infrastructure.
Equitable electrification also includes supporting the efficient use of energy through continued CPUC support of Regional Energy Networks (RENs), through which local governments administer energy efficiency programs outside of the traditional investor-owned utility (IOU) model. RENs offer regionally specific programs and energy efficiency incentives that utilities will not undertake, pilot new offerings, and target hard-to-reach markets that often overlap with those discussed in the ESJ Action Plan.
California is also implementing policies that promote the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in underserved communities. Statewide mandates now require that 100% of new cars and light trucks, and qualified medium-and-heavy duty vehicles, be zero-emission by 2035. In order to make this transition more equitable though, for example, the state’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project provides rebates to consumers who purchase or lease new, eligible EVs. Additionally, the state has invested in the development of charging infrastructure in underserved communities, making it easier for residents to charge their EVs and reducing range anxiety.
Lastly, California is working towards equitable electrification by addressing the digital divide. Access to clean energy solutions is often hindered by the lack of access to reliable internet and technological resources. In response, the state has invested in broadband infrastructure in underserved communities, making it easier for residents to access online resources and take advantage of clean energy programs and services.
In conclusion, equitable electrification policy is crucial in ensuring that all Californians have equal access to clean energy solutions and the benefits that come with them. As we continue to transition towards clean energy, it is important that we prioritize equity and address the historical injustices that have led to energy poverty and environmental injustice.