California's bid to see 10 percent of the state's new solar roof installations wind up on affordable housing will be hard to achieve, low-income housing developers told a joint meeting of the California Public Utilities Commission and Energy Commission June 13. Affordable housing projects already face marginal economics, complicated approval processes, and community opposition. Adding solar energy might just be the straw that breaks their backs. "Keep it simple, because there already are loads of requirements affordable housing must comply with," Linda Wheaton, California Department of Housing and Community Development assistant deputy director, advised the commissioners. The two energy agencies held a joint meeting to develop a plan for including affordable housing in the California Solar Initiative. It will provide $2.5 billion in incentive funding to help place solar panels on a million rooftops statewide by 2016. The CPUC is planning to set aside $25 million a year for solar in affordable and low-income housing developments, or 10 percent of the available money, explained Jeanne Clinton, CPUC adviser for clean energy initiatives. Incentive payments for affordable housing solar projects might be 25 percent higher than the proposed $2.25 per watt payments for "mainstream" residential installations. While not earmarking a fixed amount, the Energy Commission also is planning to make higher incentive payments for affordable housing, said Tim Tutt, adviser to commission chair Jackie Pfannenstiel. The need for a break on housing and energy costs for low-income residents in California has never been greater. Fifteen percent of state residents spend more than half their income on housing, according to Wheaton, placing them in the "extremely low-income category." Moreover, local public housing authorities spend 25 percent of their budgets on energy, said Nehemiah Stone, Heschong Mahone Group director of multifamily programs and research. He added that the cost of energy is second only to the cost of housing as a reason for homelessness. The group specializes in building energy efficiency. However, significant changes to state programs probably will be needed to make solar a success in affordable housing "Time is our worst enemy in affordable housing," explained Mary Jane Jagodzinski, Community Housing Works senior project manager. "We lose more when we're late." Jagodzinski recounted the San Diego organization's experience in planning and constructing one of the first affordable housing projects in California that will be almost completely solar powered. Known as Solara, the 56-apartment infill project in Poway - an inland city in north San Diego County - will rely on solar panels for 90 percent of its electricity. The project also includes energy-efficiency measures that exceed standards for new construction. Despite its green attributes, however, Community Housing Works has run into a number of impediments in moving the project forward. First, Jagodzinski said, the city of Poway took longer than usual to review the project. Second, financiers wanted to see the state solar rebate reservation before they would approve project loans. Third, the carport for the development needed heavier framing to support solar panels. Finally, metering for the project was complicated, she said. Now that the project is under construction, Community Housing Works fears that the solar panels may not be delivered on time. "Every month I come in late, I lose $100,000 of equity," said Jagodzinski. Others said that solar retrofits are too complicated for managers of existing affordable housing projects. "Very few, if any," existing affordable housing project owners are installing solar systems, and when they do it generally has been only to power common areas, according to Clare Bressani Tanko, Bay Area Local Initiatives Support Corporation program officer. Among the recommendations offered by Bressani Tanko, Jagodzinski, and others at the meeting were: ? Higher rebates that may meet up to 75 percent of project costs. ? Streamlined metering rules that will promote solar rather than impeding it. Submetering, for instance, is no longer allowed (Circuit, Aug. 5, 2005), making it difficult for low-income housing owners to capture the benefits of rooftop solar systems. ? Quicker processing of rebate reservations and extension of their validity to up to 30 months along with quicker disbursement of rebates. The CPUC plans to develop a proposed approach to affordable housing under the California Solar Initiative late this year for adoption in the first half of 2007.