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Community Solar

Enable Clean Energy Access to Low-Income Populations

Use Procurement Methods That Would Lower the Overall Cost of the Project and, in Turn, the Cost for Low-Income Populations

As shown below, lowering costs is essential for providing equitable access to community solar projects. To lower costs, you will want to consider how you can capture tax credits, reduce both hard and soft costs, and reduce financing costs, as discussed in the reducing project costs section.

Explore Financing Options to Help LMI Customers Subscribe to a Community Solar Project

Helping LMI customers pay for their subscriptions through innovative financing models can be key to providing equitable energy. Clean Energy States Alliance’s (CESA) webinar on Community Solar for Low- and Moderate-Income Consumers explains LMI subscription considerations and provides examples of each option.

In addition, the following list, drawn from NREL’s Unlocking Solar for Low- and Moderate-Income Residents, depicts potential ways you can help LMI customers pay for their subscriptions:

  • On-Bill Financing

    A funding structure allows residents to pay for an energy investment through their utility bill. In this case, they can qualify with their utility payment history in lieu of their credit score.

  • Low Interest Loans

    Low-interest loans, often through a clean energy loan program, can be used to help target groups gain access to capital.

  • Direct Cash Incentives

    Includes grants and rebates that decrease the total cost of a solar system.

  • Tax Incentives

    Allow for a tax deduction or direct credit from an investment in solar energy.

  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)/ Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)

    DOE program funds that can be used to install cost-effective solar and weatherization projects.

  • Developers Obtain Local Grants

    Your city could work with developers to help them pursue state or local grants to provide community solar to LMI customers.

  • Flex Tenant Subscriptions

    A large anchor off-taker, such as a municipal government, could have a flexible subscription that temporarily increases to absorb the loss of subscriptions from LMI customers who move or drop out of the program. Non-anchor off-takers could also play this role.

  • Crowdfunding

    Running a crowdfunding campaign can provide capital that can reduce the total project cost to participants.

Design Your Program to Explicitly Target LMI Populations

To include explicit considerations for LMI populations (or involving women- and minority-owned businesses), you could read the Low-Income Solar Policy Guide‘s Low-Income Solar Policy Guidelines and Sample Bill Language, which includes sample bill language for LMI initiatives.

Finally, you may also want to take a look at some examples:

Learn More

Take a look at Elevate Energy’s Community Solar Business Case Tool, which incorporates the subscription business models into an economic valuation framework and can be helpful for estimating subscription cost management and options.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Design and Implementation of Community Solar Programs for Low- and Moderate-Income Customers provides additional insight into program designs and structures that can include and retain low- and moderate-income customers, clarify program billing, crediting, and eligibility, reduce customer turnover and default risk, and enroll customers with lower credit scores.