The sun shines on the beachfront mansions of Malibu and La Jolla, just as it does on Compton and Barrio Logan in San Diego.
It beams down on the most upscale part of Clovis and its golf course development of Brighton Crest, and on the gritty flats of south and west Fresno.
But based on how California policymakers dole out valuable subsidies for solar panels placed on the residential roofs, the poorest parts of our sunny state might as well be on the dark side of the moon.
California is in the midst of by far the nation's most ambitious program to convert to solar energy, one that began in 2006 when then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared that during the next decade, the state would place solar panels on a million rooftops.
To pay for it, the California Public Utilities Commission earmarked $3.3 billion, spread over 10 years, taken in small slices from utility customers' monthly bills.
It was high concept, bold and visionary, and not the least bit efficient. There is no more costly solar power than that which is placed on residential roofs.
"Socially, it is a complete money loser," said professor Severin Borenstein of the UC Energy Institute at UC Berkeley.
The Public Utilities Commission reported earlier this year that California Solar Initiative subsidies have amounted to $885 million so far. They've created 924 megawatts of power spread across 94,900 locations owned by large and small commercial users, and residential customers.
The piece of program reserved for lowest income customers is not quite so robust. The PUC reports solar has been installed on the homes of 862 low-income Californians.
It's not as if lawmakers weren't warned.
Then-Assemblyman Hector de la Torre, a Los Angeles-area Democrat recently named by Brown to the California Air Resources Board, recalled his argument in 2005 and 2006 when Schwarzenegger was pushing his plan: If his constituents in South Gate had a few thousand dollars, they'd spend it on a new roof, not on solar roof panels.
"It wasn't rocket science," de la Torre said.
The numbers make de la Torre's point.
The California Public Utilities Commission reports that one residence in the Sonoma County wine town of Glen Ellen received a $372,000 subsidy on a $2.2 million solar installation. A Newcastle residence received a $319,000 subsidy on a $1.45 million installation.
In all, 22 residential solar projects received subsidies in excess of $100,000 each, and 71 others received subsidies of $50,000 or more.
Sliced a different way, the Public Utilities Commission reports that the ZIP code covering the eastern end of Clovis, one of the most tony areas of the Fresno region, received $3.5 million in solar roof subsidies. Down in the flatlands of Fresno, in the southern and western ends of the city, subsidies totaled $40,000.
"People with low income can't afford any piece of it, rebate or no rebate," said Assemblyman Henry T. Perea, a Democrat who lives in the flatlands.
In three ZIP codes for Malibu, rebates for residential solar installations have amounted to more than $1.5 million. About 13,000 people live there. In three ZIP codes in Compton, home to almost 140,000 people, there was one solar subsidy for $2,269.
The same is true in Granite Bay, where there have been $1.3 million in subsidies, and El Dorado Hills, where there have been $1.5 million in subsidies.
Haves get electrons from the sun. People who have less rely on mundane natural gas, hydro and nukes.
In April, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation requiring that utilities get a third of their electricity from renewable sources, in an event at a new solar panel factory in Milpitas, owned by SunPower, the largest manufacturer of solar panels used in the California Solar Initiative.
Julie Blunden, a SunPower executive, called the initiative "wildly successful." Installation prices have dropped significantly. The initiative helped spawn an industry that employs several thousand people. The clean energy generated by the panels displaces other types of electricity generated by fossil fuel.
But the rooftop solar business wouldn't exist, at least not in its current form, without various subsidies, including the state rebates and 30 percent federal tax credit.
San Diego Gas & Electric is raising issues related to rooftop solar in filings with the PUC. The utility is seeking to charge solar customers an average of $22 a month to cover transmission, distribution and other overhead costs.
Sempra also is seeking approval of midsize solar arrays that could be installed at power substations, on the roofs of large warehouses, on land that is too polluted for other uses. The company would sell the electrons to apartment dwellers and customers who couldn't afford rooftop solar. It would be far more efficient than placing panels on individual roofs.
"At some point, the Legislature will have to address the rate structure," said J.C. Thomas, government and regulatory affairs manager for SDG&E's parent, Sempra Energy.
A year ago, Texas oil companies campaigned for an initiative to unravel AB 32, the California law requiring reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Voters rejected that measure overwhelmingly, rightly so.
But California's energy policy remains convoluted. Too much money is spent extravagantly, and not enough is spent on simple steps, like weatherizing, which actually could help large numbers of people who could use the assistance.
Of course, the beautiful people of Malibu and La Jolla should be able install solar panels on their tile roofs, if that's what they want. But the people of Compton and Barrio Logan shouldn't be expected to subsidize them.
More to the point, policymakers need to stop making feel-good policy by press release, and focus on the unfairness of the green energy subsidy game. If they don't, the public, which repeatedly has shown that it truly does want a clean environment, will turn, rightly so.