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Develop and Issue an RFP

The goal of an RFP is to solicit accurate, comparable bids from residential solar companies and select the best-qualified company to achieve a Solarize campaign’s goals. The RFP can be a powerful tool to shape an inclusive campaign, particularly if it includes requirements to promote equity. At the same time, it is important to strike a balance between being too prescriptive and providing installers with flexibility. Adding too many constraints or creating an excessively complex RFP may force installers to increase prices or may dissuade them from participating at all.

The following table includes elements typically included in a Solarize RFP (download RMI’s forthcoming Inclusive Solarize Campaign RFP Template for more detail).

  • Project Overview

    This section provides a concise summary of a Solarize campaign for potential proposers to quickly determine their interest.

    • RFP purpose (e.g., soliciting business information and pricing proposals from solar installers for a Solarize campaign)
    • Project partners (e.g., listing the official CBOs and other partners and their roles)
    • Project goals (e.g., expanding solar education and installations in communities of color)
    • Project details (e.g., summarizing the campaign’s outreach strategy and installer selection process)
    • Project time line (e.g., providing dates or deadlines for RFP submission, respondent interviews, installer selection, estimated campaign launch and close dates, contract signing deadline, and solar installation deadline)
    • Solar installer benefits (e.g., providing greater local solar awareness, reduced marketing/permitting costs, higher lead volume and close rates)
  • Scope of Work

    This section specifies the selected installer’s and Solarize team’s roles and responsibilities.

    • Campaign coordinator responsibilities (e.g., project management, marketing and outreach, resident recruitment and management)
    • Selected installer responsibilities (e.g., internal campaign communications, site assessments, proposals and contracts, installations)
    • System requirements (e.g., solar PV and inverter code compliance, warranties, performance guarantees, efficiencies)
  • Proposal Requirements

    This section specifies the required proposal format and content a proposer must provide so that responses are easy to accurately interpret and compare.

    • Installer eligibility requirements (e.g., minimum number of previous residential solar installations in jurisdiction, licensing, insurance)
    • Proposal format, submission, and deadline (e.g., specifying the response form to utilize)
    • Response form (e.g., an Excel-based response form, such as RMI’s forthcoming Inclusive Solarize Campaign RFP Response Form Template, to standardize requested information such as firm experience, pricing, hardware, services, additional offerings, and community benefits to make proposals easier to evaluate)
    • Submission recommendations (e.g., recommendations regarding base pricing, LMI inclusivity, concise responses)
  • Proposal Evaluation

    This section details how and on which criteria the proposals will be evaluated. Providing this clarity allows proposers to tailor their bids and ensures the selected proposal is the one that most closely aligns with the local government’s goals. The selection committee should be responsible for determining the criteria and associated point value.

    • Evaluation process (e.g., the evaluation committee will be made up of people from specific organizations and score proposals based on the evaluation criteria)
    • Evaluation criteria and weighting (e.g., X points for installer experience and customer reviews, X points for cost-effectiveness and financing, X points for hardware and warranty, X points for campaign services and capacity, X points for additional offering, and X points for community benefits)
    • Acceptance and award process (e.g., reserving the right to make multiple awards, one award, or no rewards and specifying the turnaround time to execute the project documents)

Other attachments to the RFP may include indemnification clauses and the proposed contract between the solar installer and Solarize agency, if applicable. As an example, Solarize CrowdSource has included a template contract on its website.

Once finalized, a Solarize RFP is typically issued through an open solicitation to any solar installers on domains such as Bidnetdirect. In addition, it is helpful to contact local solar installers to make them aware of the RFP. Utilizing the communications channels in local chapters of the Solar Energy Industries Association can be especially helpful to communicate to a broader network of installers.

Typically, installers are given four to five weeks to respond. The core team’s responses to all installer questions should be posted on a public site for transparency and efficiency.

Suggested Next Steps:

Develop a Solarize campaign RFP and RFP response form using available templates such as RMI’s forthcoming Inclusive Solarize Campaign RFP Template and Inclusive Solarize Campaign RFP Response Form Template.