California’s US$15bn climate action package signed but spending on energy deferred until 2022

California is one of the US states with most to gain from climate change prevention after suffering from a series of damaging wildfires this year. Image: Distributed Solar Development.

California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a US$15 billion package to fund programmes to tackle drought and climate change in the state. While two bills relating to solar were included, major commitments to energy and transport have been deferred to 2022.

Hailed as the largest in California’s history, the climate package contains 24 bills focused on climate and clean energy efforts, drought and wildfire preparedness. Bill AB 1124 focuses on solar energy systems, while SB 757 is concerned with consumer protection and solar improvements.

Bill AB 1124 reiterates the definition of a solar system in Californian law and places limits on connection fees that can be charged for permits for residential and commercial and industrial-sized solar systems. The full text of the bill stipulating those fees can be found here.

Bill SB 757 meanwhile brings solar energy systems into the definition of home improvements, which in turn extends consumer protections relating to misselling. As a result, all persons selling solar systems in California must be registered. The full text of the bill can be found here.

Despite this, the energy and transport packages included in the budget were deferred until 2022. The US$735 million energy package includes investments to accelerate the state’s clean energy goals. “Discussions surrounding both priority packages will continue through the fall and the Administration and Legislature expect to address them in early 2022,” read a budget amendment.

The package’s largest chunk of funding, US$5.2 billion, will go towards emergency drought relief projects and expanding California’s water supplies. The package includes $3.7 billion to address climate change risks, investing in projects that will mitigate extreme heat and tackle the threat of rising sea levels.

Earlier this month (6 September), a coalition of 347 organisations warned that potential changes to California’s policy support for rooftop solar could set back climate change progress and harm low-income residents’ access to solar energy.

California has historically been on the ‘Big Three’ states in the US when it comes to solar deployment but recent moves but other states have been putting the squeeze on that accolade.