California policies designed to incentivize renewable energy and energy efficiency mostly benefit wealthy ratepayers, according to a new study.
California is often called a leader on renewable energy and energy efficiency, but the benefits of the state’s clean energy programs might not be equitably distributed, according to a new study.
In the Los Angeles area, California’s renewable energy, energy efficiency and electric vehicle programs are disproportionately rewarding wealthy ratepayers, whose high energy use is being “subsidized” by other ratepayers in the area, researchers at UCLA’s California Center for Sustainable Communities found.
Analyzing electricity and gas billing data in Los Angeles County from 2006 to 2017, the study published in the journal Elementa reported that residents living in “disadvantaged communities” — or predominantly low-income areas that bear the brunt of environmental pollution — in Los Angeles consume an average of 55% as much electricity and 60% as much natural gas as those living in higher-income communities.
Residents of those higher-income communities also purchase electric vehicles and solar panels in greater numbers, reaping the state government subsidies and tax credits associated with programs for those technologies, the study said.
Other studies have shown that wealthier residents are also more likely than middle- and low-income residents to take advantage of California’s energy efficiency programs, such as rebates for people who upgrade household appliances or purchase electric or hybrid vehicles.
For example, Californians can receive a rebate of up to $7,000 when they buy or lease a new plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, a fully electric vehicle or a fuel-cell EV, according to the state’s Climate Investments program.