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San Diego’s Low-Income Communities Want Clean Energy

Aired 9/6/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.


David Alvarez, San Diego City Councilman, 8th District

Nicole Capretz, Associate Director, Green Energy, Green Jobs campaign at the Environmental Health Coalition.


Amid the flurry of bills sent to Governor Jerry Brown's desk at the close of the state Assembly session last week, a solar energy bill was left out.

Assembly Bill 1990, which would have created small-scale energy projects in low-income neighborhoods, failed to find the needed support.

A recent poll about solar energy taken among residents in Barrio Logan, Sherman Heights, City Heights and National City showed 72 percent of those residents would be willing to pay 10 cents more a month for SDG&E to install solar in their communities.

"There's a real hunger, there's a real desire to have solar and green energy technologies installed in their community," said Nicole Capretz, associate director of the Green Energy, Green Jobs campaign at the Environmental Health Coalition, which conducted the survey. "It's an investment in their community, it's infrastructure, it's job opportunities. They want that."

Capretz said the 10 cents figure was based on a program proposed in AB 1990, which would pay commercial building owners to install solar panels in disadvantaged communities.

"We crunched the numbers and figured out, what is the worst case scenario for what the impact would be to rate payers," she said. "So that's where the 10 cents come in."

City Councilman David Alvarez, who represents those neighborhoods, said he's not surprised by the poll results.

"People who live in every community really want to embrace this, this is sort of part of the American fabric now of society, sustainable communities is the new America," he said. "If you think about it, a lot of these communities have a lot of recent immigrants, a lot of these people have come to this country to be part of a greater society, and sustainable communities is the new frontier in some ways for America."

He said people favor having solar panels in their own back yards to be part of that greater good.

Capretz said many of the people in these communities who answered the surveys are renters, not home owners. She said large multi-family apartment buildings are "ripe for solar energy."

She added that installing solar panels also brings jobs to those communities.

Alvarez said the visual of seeing a solar panel in these neighborhoods sends a strong message to residents, especially children.

"If we want to survive and thrive as a society, we need to be respectful of our resources," he said.

Claire Trageser contributed to this report.

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