When I came to the United States from Mexico 50 years ago, I was determined to make a good life for myself and my family. I learned English, got an education, became a teacher and raised a family.
Then the housing crisis hit and the economy declined. I lost my job with the LA Unified School District, and everything changed. I could barely afford to pay my bills. With the electricity charges at more than $150 a month, I often wondered how I’d keep the lights on while also putting food on the table. It was then that I learned about a program through the State of California that would help put solar power on my rooftop. Today, my electricity bill has dropped to around $10 a month.
My family is thrilled to be saving so much money with solar, but for me the benefit of this program goes beyond my bills. As in neighboring cities such as Bell Gardens, Commerce, and Bell, our community is facing severe pollution from industry, freeways and more that affects the air we breathe every day. And with the drought and other effects of climate change, it will only get worse if we don’t act.
Engineers and scientists are making huge strides with solar solutions that reduce pollution to our neighborhoods and our planet, but these technologies are not yet affordable to families like mine without assistance. In fact, the groups most affected by climate change and pollution, and the groups most burdened by high energy bills, are the ones that have the least ability to take advantage of affordable, clean energy. It is something we need and want for the health of our families and communities.
The good news is that green programs exist and are beginning to make changes for a lot of Los Angeles communities. SB535 and more recently AB1550 are setting aside funds from California’s cap-and-trade program—a program created by AB 32 in 2006—to spend on reducing pollution and the impacts of climate change in disadvantaged communities across the state, many of them here in LA. Some of these funds are going directly to programs that bring solar technology to families like mine, lowering energy bills and reducing pollution at the same time.
Programs like these also create jobs that help our local economy. My solar electric system was installed by nonprofit GRID Alternatives, which used it as an opportunity to train a group of students from the University of Southern California. GRID Alternatives has trained 3,500 people in the Los Angeles area, many of them installing solar on roofs in their own neighborhoods. For the young people in Pico Rivera who leave high school with few job options, these skills can be an entry point into well-paid careers with great growth opportunities right here at home. Solar is a new middle-class industry that can’t be outsourced or shipped overseas.
Locally, leaders like Assemblymember Cristina Garcia have called for using even more funds from AB32 for programs that benefit communities affected by climate change. Garcia has also called for other policymakers to come together and make sure that environmental benefits, quality jobs and energy savings are directed to vulnerable communities that need them most. This is what climate change leadership looks like, and we need more leaders like her as we face the dual challenges of climate change and economic struggles.
I encourage Assemblymember Garcia and other local legislators to continue to promote clean energy programs in our city, and to support grassroots-level programs like the one that put solar on my roof. They allow every community the opportunity to save money by switching to solar, and at the same time let us to play a bigger part in combatting climate change.
Aurora Duran is a former teacher in the LA Unified School District, a solar recipient, and a resident of Pico Rivera.Posted - Copyright © 2022 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.