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San Diego, SDG&E to bring solar energy to low-income communities

San Diego Gas & Electric, along with the city of San Diego, announced a program on Tuesday that will help low- to moderate-income homeowners in communities most affected by climate change to install roof-top solar panels at little to no cost.

It's called the San Diego Solar Equity Program, and it's part of the franchise agreement between SDG&E and the city of San Diego. It will help offset the cost of solar for moderate and low-income families in the city’s Communities of Concern as defined by the Climate Equity Index.

“We share the city’s goals around the future and climate equity. And we’re all very aligned on that,” said Caroline Winn, SDG&E’s CEO.

SDG&E and the city tapped the Center for Sustainable Energy, a 25-year-old nonprofit, to administer the program.

“It’s designed to serve the equity community in San Diego using the Climate Equity Index, which combines economic factors (and) environmental factors to identify those families in San Diego most at risk for climate change,” said Larry Goldenhersh, the center’s CEO.

The program would help working-class families cut their energy costs, District 7 Councilmember Raul Campillo said.

“We’ve designed this because we know those types of families can’t afford the $20, $30, $35,000 dollars cost to buy the solar panels then have the contractor install it,” he said. “So we want to help those individuals drive down their electricity costs.”

To qualify, homeowners must make $128,300 or less annually for a family of four. Right now, the Communities of Concern are located in the neighborhoods in districts 4, 7, 8 and 9. That means some people who meet the income requirement still won't be eligible, such as Sonya Palacios, who lives in Golden Hill.

While her neighborhood is not one of the designated communities, she welcomes the idea. Palacios had considered adding solar panels before but couldn’t afford it on her salary as a library assistant.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “I think that you know we can make it available and accessible to more people and, especially, people where they wouldn’t have even considered it as a choice kind of like myself — wouldn’t have even thought that it was going to be an option.”

The program aims to cover 100% of the cost and up to $3,500 in upgrades for homes that need extra preparation for solar installations.

Applications for the program open next month. To see if you qualify, visit SDSolarEquity.org.

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