Too few low-income communities in California, defined as census tracts that do not exceed 80% of the median statewide family income, can afford renewable electricity.


Identifying the problem definition was a smooth process for our group, for we have been following the rise of demand for renewable energy and recognize the disparity in affordability. Public utilities are a large expense for any household and taking on an additional charge to contribute to a clean energy future seems a lot to ask some folks.

Projected outcomes

Along the path of solving policy problems, it's critical to consider a set of criterion to apply to the alternatives. Doing so can result in projected outcomes, which can lead policymakers in the right direction of which criterion and alternative are most likely to lead to a solution. For our project we chose to focus on the criteria of equity and apply it to the alternative of subsidizing installation of solar panels for low-income communities. The projected outcome form this combination could solve our problem definition.

& criteria

Following the identification of a policy problem comes the task of brainstorming a solution. Our team focused on applying the three criterion of efficiency, equity and political feasability to the three alternatives of letting present trends continue, requiring new businesses in CA to implement solar panels and subsidizing installation of solar panels for low-income communities.

The Eightfold Path

Using Bardach & Patashnik’s Eightfold Path method for policy analysis helped us a great deal in coming up with a clear problem definition and conducting relevant preliminary research. We wish it had more to say in Step 4 about our “maximize equity” criterion, and in Step 6 about how to find a metric that was commensurable across this and our other criteria (a key thing to do before confronting trade-offs). However, in general Bardach & Patashnik were able to predict many of the wrong turns we would take throughout this project, and provided sound advice to keep us on track to creating a coherent final product.

the solution

affordable renewable utilities for everyone

The world is in an era where sustainability is more critical than ever, as the effects of climate change are occurring at an unprecedented (and devastating) rate. In order for tangible change to happen, policymakers must coordinate at the state, national, and global levels. For example, the state of California aims to be at the forefront of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, aiming to reach 100% renewable energy by 2045 (SB 100, 2018).



Sofia Abramsky-Sze is a second-year student at the University of California, Berkeley. She is intending to double major in Psychology and Public Health as well as minor in Public Policy. She currently holds positions at the Institute of International Studies, the Vanguard at Berkeley, and UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health.


Evan is a junior at UC Berkeley where he studies the ways that democracy, capitalism, and public policy intersect with contemporary environmental problems. He is excited to be doing work that addresses jointly the issues of climate change and social inequality. In his free time he enjoys backpacking, skiing, and playing the piano. 

Victoria Manasyan

I’m a third year at UC Berkeley majoring economics and graduating in December 2022. She served as the CEO of the nonprofit Kids Helping Kids Sacramento and will be interning as a commercial banking intern at HSBC this summer. Working on this project was an incredible opportunity to learn more about the renewable energy options in California!

Madeline Sarvey

Madeline Sarvey will graduate from UC Berkeley in 2023 with a BA in Philosophy. She began a career in the environmental sector in 2019 as a Public Affairs Intern with Marin Clean Energy. Then she served an AmeriCorps position for a non-profit conservation organization in rural Nevada. In her free time she enjoys cooking, rock climbing, and spending time with her nieces. 

Our Hope for
the Future

Throughout this semester, our group has brought together our various strengths to collaborate on problem-solving a policy solution to a problem we all recognize. We hope to see a solution such as subsidizing rooftop solar installation in low-income communities throughout the state and beyond. Avenues to equitable affordability in the public utility sector must exist if renewable energy is to power the future. Small programs like GRID Alternatives are already being implemented in the Bay Area, demonstrating the viability of this kind of policy and providing a basis for its wider implementation.