Low-Income Solar Policy Guide Launched By National Nonprofits 

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National nonprofits GRID Alternatives, Vote Solar, and the Center for Social Inclusion have launched the “Low-Income Solar Policy Guide,” a new online tool offering models for expanding access to solar power and solar jobs to low-income residents nationwide.

solar system shutterstock_311871896In a press announcement, the guide has been touted as the first comprehensive roadmap showing how targeted policies at a national scale can open up solar access for many of the 22 million owner-occupied households with income at or below 80% area median income and the 6 million affordable housing units in the US – as several states have demonstrated since 2009.

Records indicate solar access has been limited to wealthier homes, however, declining solar costs and industry growth are seen as factors creating opportunities for disadvantaged communities in a number of ways, including providing rate relief, jobs, and clean local energy.

This online tool provides a comprehensive look at proven policies and program models for expanding access to solar power and solar jobs around the country.

Declining solar costs and fast industry growth create opportunities to put solar energy to work providing long-term financial relief, stable employment, and improved environmental health in underserved communities. The guide, aimed at policymakers and community leaders, shows how targeted policies at national scale can open solar access for many of America’s households defined as low-income.

“Today we have affordable solar and other new clean energy options at our disposal, and we need new energy policies to match. It’s time to go beyond simply protecting low-income customers to policies that truly empower them,” said Jon Wellinghoff, partner at Stoel Rives and past chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. “Having more empowered customers generating electricity, consuming less, and actively participating in our shared energy system will lead to a cleaner, more robust, and lower-cost grid for everyone.”

crowded residential area shutterstock_123027448Fully enabling low-income access in America’s current solar surge, and expanding solar workforce opportunities, requires policies and programs specifically designed to address the unique barriers faced by these communities. The guide provides an overview of those barriers, key principles such as consumer protection and deep financial savings that should underpin any policy, and a suite of policy tools like direct incentives, on-bill financing, and green banks that are currently being used in successful programs around the nation. Chip in a few dollars a month to help support independent cleantech coverage that helps to accelerate the cleantech revolution!

“Solar is a technology that benefits everyone,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “By providing stable electricity prices below local utility rates, solar energy can substantially reduce the energy burden of low-income households. We’re confident that with the right policies in place, solar will continue to grow all across America, bringing with it well-paying local jobs and the cleaner air quality that every American, socioeconomic status aside, deserves.”

As this guide points out to those showing interest,

“A low-income solar program may leverage a varied combination of the policy tools and initiatives described in the Policy Tools section. This section describes a number of programs targeting different consumer sectors that have had success in broadening solar access and increasing adoption. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all low-income solar programs nationally, but rather highlight successful elements of a few programs.”

The “Low-Income Solar Policy Guide,” also reports on some successful policies and programs, both for single-family, multifamily and community solar put in place in states and local governments.

  • California’s Single-Family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) and Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing (MASH) Programs
  • Colorado’s Community Solar Gardens Act
  • Massachusetts’ Green Communities Act of 2008 and Solar Loan Program
  • New York State’s Green Jobs-Green New York Act of 2009, NY-Sun’s Affordable Solar Program, and Community Distributed Generation Program
  • Washington DC.’s Sustainable Energy Utility’s Small-Scale Solar Initiative/Solar Advantage Plus Program

“To combat climate change and reduce air pollution, all our communities need affordable and extensive access to renewable energy,” said California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León. “Early policy efforts in California like the Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) program proved that we can unlock solar access for our most disadvantaged communities. This policy guide shows a path forward to extend this access to low-income residents, renters, and homeowners across America.”

The Low-Income Solar Policy Guide was launched yesterday in Manhattan, featuring representatives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Connecticut Green Bank, and Environmental Defense Fund.

A similar launch event and panel discussion featuring three Members of Congress and senior representatives from the White House and GW Solar Institute will take place in Washington, DC. today.

Record of images: solar system via Shutterstock; crowded residential area via Shutterstock

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Glenn Meyers

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

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