Newsom signs California community solar act into law, orders CPUC to create workable programme

The Act’s passage means the CPUC will have to consider whether to develop or axe current community solar projects in the state. Image: Clean Energy Collective

California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a proposed community solar programme into law that will help low income communities benefit more from solar PV.

Signed as part of a sweeping package of legislation under the US$54 billion California Climate Commitment, the programme – dubbed AB 2316 – was passed in California’s Senate at the start of this month, with Newsom given until 30 September to sign it into law.

AB 2316 directs the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to create a community renewable energy programme that prioritises access for renters, low-income households and those who cannot install on-site solar and storage.

The bill requires the CPUC to support or axe existing community solar programmes that are not achieving their goals, facilitates community solar projects’ compliance with California’s building code standards and will piggyback on the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to drive solar deployment in the state.

PV Tech Premium has previously explored how the IRA will impact community solar deployment in the US. You can view that research and more details on US community solar here.

“Together with the Legislature, California is taking the most aggressive action on climate our nation has ever seen,” Newsom said in a statement. “That’s climate action done the California Way – and we’re not only doubling down, we’re just getting started.”

Aaron Halimi, founder and CEO of community solar developer Renewable Properties, which has 26 projects in California, applauded Newsom signing the act into law, noting that it “should enable more low-income customers to financially benefit from local community solar.”

Halimi did, however, caveat that by saying that “few may benefit from this new law if the CPUC does not develop programme rules that will financially attract both solar developers and low-income subscribers”.  

The Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA) said there was huge potential for community solar growth in California. An industry analysis found California could have 360MW of community solar-plus-storage in place by summer 2024 and 800MW of community solar-plus-storage power online by summer 2025 if rulemaking processes called for in AB 2316 were adopted by the CPUC by the end of 2023.

The announcement last week (16 September), came just ahead of the RE+ solar trade show in Anaheim, California, where thousands of industry actors will come together to connect, share knowledge and push the clean energy sector in the US forward. PV Tech will be reporting from the show all week, bringing you breaking news, product launch information and exclusive features and interviews.

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