California AB 693: Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH) Program & the Multifamily Affordable Housing Solar Roofs Program (MASH)
California’s SOMAH and MASH programs provide an example of how financial incentives can be used to support installation of solar energy photovoltaic (PV) systems on multifamily affordable housing properties. Assembly Bill 693 provides financial incentives for the installation of PV systems, prescribes criteria for participation in the incentive program, sets targets for installation of solar PV systems, identifies various required elements for the Program, and gives direction to the California Public Utilities Commission on the administration of the Program. The SOMAH program's goal is to encourage the installation of 300 megawatts (MW) of solar power to benefit affordable housing units by 2030. This program is funded through GHG allowance auction proceeds and is administered by nonprofits and electric utilities. Eligible building owners and tenants can receive solar credits through a virtual net energy metering (VNEM) system. The program provides direct economic benefits by allowing low-income renters to receive energy produced on the roof of their housing unit, which lowers monthly utility costs and helps “disadvantaged communities” reap the benefits of the growing California solar industry.
The SOMAH Program stemmed from the success of the Multifamily Affordable Housing Solar Roofs Program (MASH), which was also created by Assembly Bill 693 and is funded by the state’s three large electric utilities. MASH is the low-income focus area for the California Solar Initiative program and provides solar incentives for affordable housing units, as SOMAH does. The goals of MASH include to increase the amount of solar power in the affordable housing sector, improve the quality of affordable housing facilities with energy efficient technology, decrease use and costs of electricity, increase awareness of the benefits of solar power, and give employment opportunities within the energy economy. As of 2017, MASH has been extremely successful in its implementation, with 427 projects serving affordable housing complexes across California. Via MASH, low-income renters receive a portion of the energy produced on the roof of their apartment complex, which would reduce their monthly utility bills and put extra cash in their pockets to spend on other basic needs.
While SOMAH shares the goals of MASH, it is a new project which gains funding from a different source, has different eligibility requirements, and operates within different regulations. SOMAH also has an increased focus on providing solar incentives in disadvantaged communities, which are areas that suffer most from a combination of economic, health, and climate change impacts. SOMAH receives up to $100 million each year through California’s cap-and-trade greenhouse gas program. While MASH received funding from large utilities, the shares of SOMAH’s greenhouse gas allowances come from small and multi-jurisdictional electric utility companies including Pacific Gas and Electric Company, San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, Liberty Utilities Company, and PacifiCorp. In order to be eligible for the program, the multifamily affordable housing properties must be located in the utility territories of one of these companies. Through SOMAH, these companies provide solar power and services such as technical assistance through a bidding process. This program also includes a local hiring initiative inclusive of comprehensive job training in order to strengthen the economies in these service regions.
SOMAH seeks to incentivize the interconnection and installation of at least 300 MW of solar power by the conclusion of 2030. In order to meet the necessary funding requirements to meet this goal, the incentive levels of the SOMAH program may change during its duration. Eligible participants in SOMAH receive benefits on their utility bill through VNEM bill credits. The projects within the program must provide direct economic benefits to tenants in disadvantaged communities. The outcomes of SOMAH are recorded, quantified, evaluated, and made available to the public.
Publication Date: 2015
- State of California
- Equitable Adaptation Legal & Policy Toolkit > Resilient Energy & Utility Industry Measures > Enhancing Access to Solar Energy
- Case study
- Funding program