This presentation is a breakout session panel focused on innovative programs that improve clean energy access for renters living in multifamily residential housing. Multifamily properties are a particularly challenging sector to target for energy upgrades due to split incentives, limited access to financing, low appetite for large upfront expenses, and diversity in building stock. In the South Central Coast region (i.e. San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties), over half of the multifamily units were constructed prior to 1979, before modern energy code standards were established. This means that many multifamily units, of which 90-93% are occupied by renters, have inefficient appliances and insufficient weatherization that drives up energy costs and poses health hazards to tenants. As a result, low-income renters experience disproportionately high energy burdens, which leads to renters experiencing utility disconnections or being unable to afford other necessities.

This session highlights programs and initiatives that address barriers to clean energy adoption and promote equitable deployment of energy efficiency, rooftop solar, and electric vehicle charging for renters at multifamily properties. The presentation will include representatives from the statewide Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH) program, the Tri-County Regional Energy Network (3C-REN)’s Multifamily Home Energy Savings program, and Ecology Action’s Multifamily EV Accelerator Initiative. Each of the representatives will present their initiative, share challenges and best practices, and respond to audience questions. 


Marisa Hanson-Lopez, Program Manager at the Sustainability Division of the County of Santa Barbara Marisa is the Energy Program Manager in the County of Santa Barbara’s Sustainability Division, where she has worked on a number of residential energy efficiency programs and currently serves as the Program Manager for 3C-REN’s Multifamily Home Energy Savings program. She led the development of the County’s Strategic Energy Plan and manages energy conservation requirements for cannabis business licensing. Prior to joining the County in 2014, she helped design a national residential retrofit program for the Country of Montenegro and developed an energy efficient lighting plan for the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. She holds a Master of Science in Sustainability Management from Columbia University.

Vallerie Gonzalez, Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH) Program Manager in the Distributed Energy Resources Division at the Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE).
The SOMAH Program is the largest investment of its kind in the nation, funded by up to $100 million annually for 10 years by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Vallerie helps lead program marketing, education, and outreach to ensure the program meets its statutory goal to install 300 MW of solar on multifamily affordable housing. With a focus on equity and environmental justice, Vallerie is committed to ensuring the SOMAH Program delivers benefits to those most in need. SOMAH's goal is to assure equal access to solar and help reduce energy bills primarily for tenants. Vallerie holds a Master of International Environmental Policy from the University of California, San Diego and a B.A. in internal business and economics from the Richmond, the American University in London, England. Before SOMAH, Vallerie was an Equity Specialist focusing on equity transportation program outreach throughout California.

Kirsten Liske, Vice President of Community Programs at Ecology Action                Kirsten is grateful to serve as the Vice President of Community Programs at Ecology Action, a kick-butt innovative nonprofit making the world a better place by helping people act now with available, affordable solutions to the climate crisis. She lives and works in Santa Cruz, California, a seaside redwood haven that she could not leave after graduating (with honors) from UC Santa Cruz, a college renowned for having the nation’s coolest mascot, the banana slug. During Kirsten’s tenure at Ecology Action of Santa Cruz, the organization has experienced significant growth in size and breadth of program expertise, growing from a staff of 9 and a budget of $591,000 to a current staff of over 100 and a budget of over $18 million. Kirsten’s contributions to Ecology Action are her ability to grow and establish new programs, build successful collaboratives, and manage high performance teams. Kirsten enjoys taking long walks up big hills with heavy packs and diving in alpine lakes with friends. If she could have just one superhero power she would pick, selfishly, to fly, or philanthropically, to activate healing and collectivism in every heart she touches.


Vania Fong, Energy and Transportation Associate at Community Energy Council 

Her work brings clean energy initiatives, programs, and investment to the community in the Tri-Counties and is currently working to enable energy efficiency, electrification, and solar in multifamily properties, single family properties, and nonprofits. She is particularly interested in ensuring an equitable and just energy transition. Vania’s previous experience in utilities, research labs, energy efficiency modeling regulation, and emerging technology research brings practical know-how to the complex work in climate solutions.

Cameron Gray, Director of Climate Mitigation at CEC                                   

Cameron Gray joined CEC in 2015 as a member of the Climate and Transportation team. In his role as Director of Climate Mitigation, he works with CEC’s team to zero out greenhouse gas emissions from energy, transportation, and food systems. Cameron also provides policy guidance and facilitates community engagement for local government planning related to transportation, climate resilience, and community development and is one of CEC’s representatives for the Central Coast Climate Justice Network. He has facilitated the development of several other networks and groups, including Electric Drive 805 and the Ventura County EV Ready Communities coalition.