Following a familiar pattern – the regular legislative session went into special session – and then in a surprise move at the last minute, voted on a budget with more minority members than majority, and the House did not go into conference committee. Remember: you can always be surprised! Despite messy gridlock and the constant strain of the PFD there are brightnesses among what became of the regular session, and we are pleased to announce the introduction of our top legislative priority - Community Solar garden legislation - SB 152 - on May 15th. We have been working behind the scenes with friends and allies in the legislature for months to see it born, and we are pleased it is now out in the world.
SB 152 will clarify the rules for communities wishing to create a Community Solar garden. Generally, a solar garden is a solar panel array that is larger than a single residential array and can benefit renters and others who do not have the space or the financial means to purchase and install their own solar panels. The bill strives to ensure that more Alaskans, those in underserved communities, and those at the lower end of the income spectrum can participate in clean, affordable Solar.
Through our current Solarize programs, we have seen tremendous support for solar. We have always worked to make solar more accessible, and this bill would be a significant step in the right direction. 79,000 Alaskans live below the Federal poverty level, and over 260,000 Alaskans live in rental housing. Community Solar is the smart economic choice because it will reduce energy costs for Alaskans.
All Alaskans deserve to be a part of a renewable future. Community Solar helps lower-income and historically disadvantaged groups at the frontline of our climate crisis get direct access to the benefits of renewable energy and ensures benefits of renewable energy are shared more broadly. Community Solar is a step in the right direction toward climate justice. It's the simplest, most equitable, and least expensive way to decarbonize Alaska's energy system!
Current regulations do not allow Alaskans to pursue "Community Solar," we believe that renewables are a necessary part of a just transition, and this bill will remove some of the barriers that keep too many Alaskans dependent on extractive energies and give them more agency in their utilities. Additionally, Community Solar is poised to become much more common thanks to a new $7 billion fund tied to the Inflation Reduction Act. This federal infusion of funds for a myriad of renewable energy programs and projects will redefine Alaska's energy mix - and we want Community Solar to be a significant part of this.
At The Alaska Center, we work to bring more awareness to the power people have in the decisions about their utilities. From elections to legislation. We are stoked to celebrate the introduction of Community Solar legislation and the CEA election turnout this week! We hope you are planning to join us tomorrow for our Annual Auction at the Anchorage Museum. (If you haven’t scooped up those tickets yet, we will have a few tickets at the door remaining.) And if you can’t make it…you can always celebrate from afar by bidding on some pretty sweet silent auction items.
It feels fortuitous that our theme this year is "Climate Justice/Climate Hope." Each of our legislative priorities in this session is key to working for climate justice and forging climate hope and we are seeing the shift in real time. From democracy legislation to clean water protections and renewable energy accessibility, each is needed to achieve our goals of a just transition for our state. And each of you is necessary to make these legislative priorities happen. We are excited to see you tomorrow to reconnect, dance, dine, drink and move forward in our work together!
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