Community solar holds promise as a means of delivering affordable, clean energy to communities around the country. These projects allow residential customers to pool resources and buy stakes in larger projects, achieving price reductions through economies of scale, and providing solar energy access to consumers without land to host their own generation.
While 40 states have at least one community solar project, these often serve wealthier customers. To address this market gap, several states have taken steps to ensure that low-income communities can access community solar developments. For example New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts all provide financial incentives to reduce costs for low-income participants; Connecticut, Maryland, and New Jersey all reserve portions of state-supported community solar for low-income residents. New York’s Solar for All has been particularly successful, allowing low-income customers to sign up for community solar on their utility bills, and providing a $5-15 monthly credit on participant’s bills.
The Inclusive Shared Solar Initiative is a collaboration between NASEO, NEADA, and NYERDA, and will work with stakeholders in state government, low-income communities, solar developers, and financial institutions to expand, replicate, and refine the Solar for All model in new markets.
State, Territory, and District of Columbia Energy Offices and Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Offices are invited to apply to become State Implementation Partners in the Inclusive Shared Solar Initiative (ISSI). Please visit the following to download the RFP and learn more: Inclusive Shared Solar Initiative (ISSI) Request for Proposals (RFP) for ISSI State Implementation Partners
Through the Inclusive Shared Solar Initiative (ISSI), each state has formulated strategies that address this disparity by leveraging LIHEAP and other low-income programs to reduce the costs of and barriers to investing and participating in community solar projects.
The ISSI Program aims to refine, replicate, and expand the successful Solar For All program run by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Through this program, the state government has worked to aggregate low-income customers into large enough groups to act as “anchor tenants” for new community solar developments. Customers are able to switch over their electric service, while retaining their current billing structure and receiving a monthly credit for participating in this program. The ISSI program will seek to learn from New York’s experience supporting community solar developments for low-income customers, and bring this model to low-income communities in new states. Key resources from New York’s program can be found here:
Several states have already experimented with different ways to support low-income community solar projects. ISSI will seek to build on those efforts, while convening institutional stakeholders to expand such programs. Below are key existing resources to support community solar.
While community solar can provide cost saving for subscribers on their monthly bills, up-front financing can be difficult. New product offerings always carry additional financial risk, and revenue is generated from small monthly payments from a high number of subscribers. ISSI will work to leverage existing financing mechanisms and apply them to the framework of community solar installations. Examples include:
ISSI is currently working with three state governments, community groups, and financial institutions to host six new, low-income community solar projects from 2020-2022. In addition to pilot projects, the ISSI team will develop a suite of resources to facilitate community solar development in other states, and resources explaining the role of each key stakeholder.
Join ISSI’s Peer Exchange Network to help guide the project and learn from your peers’ experiences with community solar deployment
See our resources page for useful information and tools, as well as final reports on the ISSI pilot programs with key findings and strategies to replicate and scale these programs.