As California grapples with the worst drought experienced since the legendary Dustbowl, steps are being taken to slow the pace of climate change, make the energy infrastructure more efficient, and help low-income families save money on their power bills with subsidies for solar panel arrays.
Solar panels are an expensive technology, even with recent developments, as a clean energy rush sweeps the thirsty state- so much so that one-fourth of all the power produced in California now comes from clean energy. To keep that going, the state has decided to offer free solar panel arrays in disadvantaged neighborhoods, using the $14.7 million that have been accumulated in the cap-and-trade program, which forces companies to pay for their greenhouse gas emissions by buying credits from the government, which can then be traded or sold between each other.
The solar arrays will save the homeowners thousands of dollars a month. “These systems are saving families money every month for food, for clothes, for medical expenses,” said Julian Foley, communications director for Grid Alternatives. More than 1,600 California homes will receive the arrays by the end of 2016. “These investments will bring energy savings, they’ll bring quality jobs, and they’ll also bring environmental benefits where they’re needed the most,” said state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León.
It will help Governor Jerry Brown and the state reach their ambitious goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 40% of the 1990 level. Despite the added cost of the renewable energies, their inherent efficiency and favorable geography has led to Californians having some of the lowest electricity bills in the country.
It’s a huge step forward and a landmark program that the rest of the country should take heed of. It is a growing imperative that we shatter the stranglehold that the fossil fuel industry has on our economy, on our energy sector, and on our political integrity. Climate change is one of the biggest threats our country faces, but the Republican Party buries their heads in the sand and want to drag the rest of us down with them. It’s up to progressive states like California to set the stage, take the bold first steps and dispel Big Oil’s misinformation and hush programs preventing the development of more efficient renewable energy techniques.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.