Legislation to bring clean energy projects to low income, disadvantaged communities

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1. Photo/CCAEJ: Sierra Club attorney Matt Vespa giving information about the Etiwanda Generating Station during the Energy Equity tour on May 15
3. Courtesy Photo: A solar carport system that was recently installed at Grand Terrace High School.

Environmentalists are lobbying state leaders in hopes of rallying support for legislation that may bring more clean energy projects to low income and disadvantaged communities.

Assembly Bill 523–authored by Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes (D-Grand Terrace)–intends to provide at least 25 percent of available Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) funds for clean energy projects in disadvantaged communities and an additional 10 percent to low-income households.

The local groups supporting the bill–the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ) and the Sierra Club My Generation campaign–argue the legislation will help remove many of the barriers that continue to limit residents from fully participating in energy programs.

“Our planet needs a hand, and by turning to cleaner energy solutions we can ensure a healthier planet and environment,” reads an informational sheet. “Clean energy helps reduce climate change and our dependence on fossil fuels, which has historically caused pollution and health related issues in our communities.”

Last week CCAEJ and the Sierra Club hosted California Public Utilities Commissioner Liane Randolph for an ‘equity tour’ that highlighted the region’s challenges with air pollution and accomplishments with renewable technology.

They met with Fontana Unified School District officials to discuss solar projects that are reportedly contributing to energy savings for the area. The school district has plans to install over 13.9 megawatts of renewable solar energy systems and 6.1 megawatts of Tesla battery energy systems at their school sites.

Colton Joint Unified School District’s solar energy projects, which will be installed at every school site by the end of the year, will help save $35.8 million in utility bill savings in the next 25 years. The money saved is expected to be redirected to classroom needs.

Reyes believes part of the region’s problem in attracting renewable energy projects deals with the lack of a vision, which she claims is necessary in order to spur interest from energy companies. Part of that entails working with younger residents to create a strategy to attract solar manufacturers like Tesla to the region, she explained.

“These companies need to come and look at what we have to offer,” Reyes said. “If they don’t include millennials and progressives from our region in the conversation, then we’re doomed. These are the people that will provide us with new, innovative ideas.”

The Assemblywoman also believes elected officials should not solely rely on logistics and warehousing for revenue generation.

“As a community, we need to figure out which areas will benefit the most from these clean energy projects,” she said. “We need to be more creative.”

2. Photo/Anthony Victoria: Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes (D-Grand Terrace), author of AB 523, which intends to bring more renewable projects to low income and disadvantaged communities.

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