New guide outlines ways to include low-income customers in utility solar programs


Low-income solar rights advocates released “Principles and Recommendations for Utility Participation in Solar Programs for Low-Income Customers” as part of an ongoing campaign to ensure that local, clean, affordable solar energy is available to everyone, regardless of their income level or housing type.

“Clean energy should be for everyone, and with a few strategic shifts, it can be,” said report co-author MeLena Hessel, a senior policy advocate with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Too often, low-income communities receive the brunt of pollution and the effects of climate change, but are left out of the solutions. This report lays out realistic, common-sense guidelines for utilities to share those solutions — and the clean energy future — with all.”

In considering the roles utilities can and should play in making solar available for low-income households and underserved communities, the paper outlines three interrelated sets of guidelines and considerations for policy-makers and regulators:

  • Opportunities for Utility Facilitation of Low-Income Solar
  • Considerations for Utility Development and Ownership of Solar for Low-Income Communities
  • Guidelines for Successful Low-Income Solar Programs

“Access to distributed solar offers tremendous benefits to low-income families, including cost savings, increased resiliency to environmental and climate impacts, and localized economic and job benefits. However, barriers to solar access persist, even in mature solar markets” said Tom Figel, director of community solar for GRID Alternatives. “Utilities can play a critical role in addressing specific market barriers by addressing technical, financial and operational barriers and working in partnership with third parties and communities.”

Utilities are in a unique position to directly address some of the barriers to low-income solar deployment and ownership. However, special care must be taken to ensure utility-owned projects are designed to meet the needs of low-income households and underserved communities.

“Utility owned projects must provide immediate tangible economic benefits for low-income participants,” said Melanie Santiago-Mosier, managing director of access & equity at Vote Solar. “That means addressing financial barriers to participation and fully compensating low-income solar projects for the services and benefits they provide.”

This new guide is featured on the “Low-Income Solar Policy Guide,” a tool for policymakers, community leaders and others working on solar access at the federal, state and local levels.

News item from GRID Alternatives

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