Securing Consumer Protection for LMI Populations
To provide equitable energy to target customers, it is important to ensure they are protected over the lifetime of the project. Risks associated with solar projects are (1) developers could take advantage of these communities, such as not including the ability to transfer the subscription in the event that a subscriber moves, and (2) the project could contain unfair future pricing assumptions that harm LMI customers. The city can help increase transparency by thoroughly evaluating developers and projects and making this information easily accessible to LMI communities (e.g., via a public website).
Important things to examine include the project’s escalation rate, the up-front cost, the anticipated savings, and whether customers are able to transfer their subscriptions when they move. Publicly release this data via a portal or other communication platforms. Read www.lowincomesolar.org‘s article on consumer protection.
Conducting Outreach and Education to Promote LMI Subscriptions to Your Community Solar Project
You may consider engaging in education and outreach to LMI communities to encourage subscriptions. To do this, you must identify a point person on your team to drive forward outreach and communicate through accessible channels. It is therefore important to leverage events and programs organized by your city and existing communication channels for publicity (e.g., local housing authorities and local supplemental nutrition assistance programs).
In addition, once the project has been initiated, clearly describe the billing system of the community solar project to ensure the community members understand the financial benefits and any potential risks, as compared with their current utility bills. Read case studies of successful community solar outreach efforts. The Community Solar Value Project includes a checklist, webinar, and resources on outreach.
Leveraging Existing Programs Focused on LMI Populations
You can leverage other programs targeting economic development in LMI communities. For example, working with local housing authorities can be helpful because they have access to LMI customers and are trusted. These housing authorities allow affordable housing units to pass the benefits on to their LMI tenants and lower the risk of customer turnover and default.
To understand how other cities have leveraged existing programs, take a look at page 10 of CESA’s community solar webinar.