Congressman Cárdenas Returns to His Roots with Passion for Clean Energy

It was an overcast morning at the Delgado residence in Pacoima, but spirits were high as colorful tents and signage were set up in the driveway. GRID Alternatives Greater Los Angeles (GRID GLA) staff and homeowners, Erlinda Delgado and her husband, Cesar, stood proudly in front of their home, which was topped with newly installed solar panels.

Everyone was eagerly anticipating the arrival of Congressman Tony Cárdenas, representative of California’s 29th District, who was coming to get a first-hand look at how GRID utilizes government funds for equitable renewable energy deployment at the grassroots community level.

It was almost exactly one year ago that Erlinda Delgado had first spoken to an outreach coordinator from GRID Alternatives, advertising “free solar” to homeowners in her neighborhood in Pacoima, California. Erlinda and Cesar bought their home with an old solar system already installed on the roof. However, they quickly found that their roof would leak significantly whenever it rained, and when they reached out to the old solar installer for help, they never received a response. Frustrated and needing to take action, they had to remove the solar system entirely to make repairs. Cesar’s parents, who live down the street from them, received a solar system from GRID in 2022 and advocated for Cesar and Erlinda to reach out as well to see if they also qualified for a new rooftop solar system that could offset their rising utility bills.

Congressman Tony Cárdenas visits a GRID GLA Solar Installation
Congressman Cárdenas sits with GRID Alternatives staff, trainees, as well as homeowners who have received free solar through government funding to discuss issues surrounding sustainability in his hometown of Pacoima, CA.
Congressman Tony Cárdenas visits a GRID GLA Solar Installation
Mr. Cárdenas reviews site plans for a solar installation that is about to start in Pacoima, CA. GRID Alternatives Greater Los Angeles Construction Manager Jonatan Escalante goes over the array plans with the Congressman. 

Erlinda and Cesar were initially skeptical of the idea of “free solar”, given the prevalence of for-profit solar companies and their predatory loans and financing practices, which often targeted homeowners in the predominantly Spanish-speaking Pacoima area. However, GRID Alternatives’ model, which utilizes state-funded clean energy incentives to connect homeowners in historically underserved communities to solar at no cost, proved to be a game-changer. The Delgados decided to give GRID a chance and in February of 2023, the installation moved forward, marking a significant step towards a cleaner and more sustainable Pacoima.

As a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Tony Cárdenas has dedicated much of his time in Congress to finding solutions to the climate crisis. From his early days in the California State Assembly and the Los Angeles City Council, he advocated and pushed for cleaner air, safe drinking water, and renewable energy. He also has a personal connection to this city, which made this visit even more special. Congressman Cárdenas was born and raised in Pacoima to parents who had immigrated to the San Fernando Valley from Mexico.  Congressman Cárdenas grew up on the same street that the Delgados now live on and understands personally how solar energy can support Pacoima environmentally and economically. 

Congressman Tony Cárdenas visits a GRID GLA Solar Installation
GRID Alternatives is installing rooftop solar in Pacoima CA through funding from California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment – particularly in disadvantaged communities.
Congressman Tony Cárdenas visits a GRID GLA Solar Installation
GRID GLA Outreach Staff speak with residents in Pacoima, CA about getting state funded solar panels installed for free on their homes. 

Upon his arrival, GRID staff welcomed and presented him with an honorary GRID construction hard hat, before walking him around the property and showcasing an overview of the solar system plans. Afterward, he sat down with the Delgados and GRID staff and trainees to discuss their aspirations for a cleaner Pacoima. He asked the trainees questions about their personal stories and how they came to pursue a career in the renewable energy industry. He also listened to the Delgados and GRID GLA staff as they shared their experiences and frustrations with the predatory practices of for-profit solar companies.

“It’s organizations like GRID Alternatives that we’ve empowered to make sure that they have the resources to hire good people, to speak in many languages, and to go out into the communities and knock on the doors and make sure they understand the resources that the government has for them.”

- Congressman Tony Cárdenas 

The event ended just as clouds parted into blue skies and sunshine, a fitting ode to the topic of the day. As GRID staff said their goodbyes to Congressman Cárdenasand his team, they felt inspired to continue the work of bringing renewable energy resources to communities like Pacoima. On behalf of the Delgado family and GRID Alternatives, we want to extend a heartfelt thank you to Congressman Cárdenas for his commitment to a renewable energy future in Pacoima and the San Fernando Valley.


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