CIPL makes a point of publicizing widely major climate victories and action. The faith community is an active player in the push for a healthy and world, so stay tuned!
February 1, 2022
Contact: Susan Stephenson, executive director (510) 484-7198 (mobile)
Gerald Bernstein, report author (510)444-4891 or email@example.com
California Houses of Worship Lead the Nation in Adoption of Rooftop Solar
Slowdown expected if utilities reduce the incentives for onsite solar energy
Interfaith Power & Light (IPL) has reported its third survey of congregations in the United States with solar Photovoltaic (PV) systems. Congregations from all faith traditions have dramatically increased their investments in solar PV systems for both environmental and financial benefits. View the solar directory and a map of solar congregations here:https://www.interfaithpowerandlight.org/congregational-solar/IPL’s survey identified:
- 1,250 congregations with PV systems in 48 states and the District of Columbia.
- The 480 congregations added nationwide in the past two years exceeds the 400 additions identified in the 2019 biennial survey.
- California is home to 305 of these congregations, almost twice the number identified in 2019.
- On a population (per capita) basis, California has twice the national average of congregations with on-site solar PV systems.
Rooftop systems vary from a 3.5 kW system at the Felton, CA Bible Church (smaller than the average residential system) to a 1000 kW system at Destiny Christian Church in Rocklin, CA. The largest system is a 2000 kW ground-mount array at St. Anthony’s Retreat Center and Santa Teresita Youth Conference Center in Three Rivers, just outside Sequoia National Park.
As this enormous variation in installations suggests, not all congregations are equal in size and financial capability—just as there are lower and higher income households, there are financially strong and financially-challenged congregations. However, when seeking to install a solar PV system, all houses of worship already have one challenge —as non-profits, they cannot directly access the federal tax credit which is available to homeowners and businesses. Thus, they either pay full-price for an installation, or seek lease-financing with its attendant interest costs. The new Net Energy Metering (NEM) plan proposed by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) would add monthly fixed charges to these already elevated-cost systems, which from California Interfaith Power and Light’s (CA-IPL) experience, would eliminate the economic benefit of a PV installation for many congregations.
“States’ solar and utility policies really make a difference,” said IPL President Rev. Susan Hendershot. “If utilities greatly reduce payments to solar customers for the clean energy they deliver to the grid, or charge them more to deliver this clean energy, as they are currently proposing in California and has happened in other states, we could see solar becoming unaffordable for houses of worship and other nonprofits.”
Pastor John Current of Hope United Methodist Church in South San Francisco explained the inspiration for many houses of worship: “We have installed a pollution free solar powered energy system because we are aware that God’s creation itself is under attack. Air, water, trees… fruit and flower, birds and beast; adults, children and those generations yet to be born are all under the shadows of environmental degradation. We can’t just talk about the goodness of God’s work. We are called to do the work of defending God’s creation in all that we do. Our leaders should empower every community across California to turn their rooftops into clean power plants, to fulfill our duty as stewards of Creation.”
But finances are a consideration. According to Shirley Pajanor, Chief Financial Officer at the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, “Our solar generating program (in the Diocese of San Diego) shows the power of doing well by doing good. In his encyclical, Laudato SI, Pope Francis reminds us of our responsibility to care for the Earth as our ‘Common Home.’ Here in San Diego, in addition to our constant efforts to recycle and transition to sustainably sourced products, we’ve installed over 50 solar power plants at a number of schools, parishes, and our Diocesan Pastoral Center.” she continues “That’s good for the environment, but it’s also significantly reduced what we pay for electricity.”
According to Bishop E.L. Jackson of Grace Tabernacle Community Church, San Francisco “Every rooftop has the potential to redeem humanity’s debt to Creation and lift up those in our community who need a hand.”
CIPL urges Gov. Newsom and the California PUC not to increase the cost of rooftop solar, which could derail this expanding segment of solar users.
To set up an interview with any of the leaders quoted above, please email firstname.lastname@example.org