Community solar research shows policy change is needed to meet Justice40 goals

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By Zahra Thani and Abigail Depres energy allies

The Biden Administration Will Soon Justice 40 Initiative A program with a goal of providing underprivileged communities with 40% of the benefits from federal programs when it takes office in 2021. As a step toward this goal, the Department of Energy (DOE) launched the National Community Solar Partnership with the goal of developing 20 GW of community solar and saving up to $1 billion in energy bills by 2025. rice field. However, the program raises questions about how to ensure that the Justice40 principles are met as community solar expands. The Energy Allies (formerly the Solstice Initiative), with funding from DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO), will seek to answer these questions and identify barriers and challenges related to equitable access to community solar projects. It was made.

A 7.3 MW community solar project in Farmingdale, Maine, owned by Nautilus Solar Energy.

Community solar is intentionally designed and designed to be a more equitable means of energy access because unlike other means of renewable energy, it has lower upfront costs, saves on bills, and is more accessible to renters. Developed. But community solar has so far failed to meet Justice40 principles. NREL estimates 3,253 MW at the end of 2020.Alternating current Only 65 MW, or 2%, of the community’s solar capacity has been developed and is dedicated to low to middle income (LMI) subscribers. This discrepancy is even more pronounced when compared to the fact that 81% of the US population is considered lower or middle class.Worse, individuals with lIncome has the highest energy load – and should be a priority for community solar access.

Energy Allies supports community solar developers, community-based organizations, contract law professionals, energy equity organizers, investors, subscriber organizations, policy makers, researchers and other industry stakeholders, and DOE SETO. We investigated how members of climate-affected communities feel about climate change, with information from An existing community solar program commonly offered in this space. We gathered ideas from these communities on how these programs could be made more accessible and valuable to different types of communities. Our research also explored a developer’s perspective on perceived risks associated with an LMI subscriber and barriers to including her LMI participant in a project.

The findings demonstrate the need for policy solutions to create the conditions for utilities and developers to serve more LMI customers and drive the transition to clean energy.

Our research showed three key findings:

  • Our developer and investor survey showed that the importance of policy requirements was important in deciding whether to include LMI people in community solar projects. He said 63% of developers say policy requirements are very or very important. This was the highest rated category compared to corporate interest, developer/investor interest, equity and inclusion, and community interest.
  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is the largest compared to the risk of subscriber churn, the risk of subscriber default, lack of project funding, difficulty in obtaining qualifications for LMI stakeholders, and difficulty in communicating with LMI stakeholders. developer barriers, with 55.5% of respondents highlighting this as: very or very important. There are two main reasons why CAC influences his participation in LMI.
    • Developers often operate on thin margins. This means they don’t have the resources to go through the costly qualification process required to enroll LMI customers.
    • Utilities often delay interconnections, driving up project costs and making developers less likely to offer inclusive terms.
  • Our research has shown that saving bills alone is not enough to drive LMI participation. We looked at several products, including term length, savings rates, surrender charges, and contract length. Using demographic data to look for correlations between demographic attributes and contract preferences, we found that savings rate was not correlated with his LMI participation in community solar. However, I’ve found that familiarity with community solar is the most important factor in whether someone signs up for community solar. In fact, the more informed participant was 4.4 times more likely to sign up than the less informed participant.


Policies are a means of incentivizing utilities and holding them accountable to the communities in which they work. It’s also important in ensuring developers include her LMI people, so we need to ensure that the policy promotes an impartial strategy. Energy Allies has some suggestions for how stakeholders can make the community solar industry more accessible.

  1. State and federal policies should promote streamlining of the qualification process. For example, if someone is on a government assistance plan, or is in a zip code where the median income is below a certain her AMI percentage, then eligibility is automatically granted. National Community Solar Platformwill be piloted by SETO and may also serve as a certification process.
  2. Utilities Must Be Responsible About interconnect delays. They cite challenges with capacity loads and infrastructure, but data is kept behind closed doors and often proven to be incorrect. Democratized access to this information (which protects consumer information) can empower communities because we have a monopoly on the information we need. Just transition priorities centered around equitable solutions to the energy crisis in the face of climate change run counter to financial incentives as utilities earn less from community solar projects. . Without policies requiring utilities to make data publicly accessible and severely impact interconnect delays, utility companies will continue to slow and discourage the development of equitable community solar. .
  3. Developers should work with the community to design their projects. Developers cite community interest in community solar as the least important factor when considering including LMI participants, indicating that LMI input is underemphasized. Government Agencies Prioritize Developer Participation in Her LMI and Strong Communities to State and Federal Solar Incentive Programs to Help Communities Reap Maximum Benefits from Private Sector Clean Energy Projects input and participation.
  4. More accessible information about community solar is key to improving LMI registration for community solar projects.

To make community solar more accessible, Energy Allies is leading the development of community-driven models. Our pilot projects are in the Dorchester, Matapan, and Roxbury neighborhoods of Boston through community advisory boards that lead project development. In addition, we create resources for communities to learn more about energy and engage in policy actions to advocate for greater access to clean energy.

The Energy Allies, formerly known as the Solstice Initiative, is a non-profit organization led by women of color. Founded in 2014 by Steph Speirs and Sandhya Murali on the belief that every home should have access to affordable clean energy. Our goal is to co-design democratized clean energy systems that bring wealth to climate-affected communities through distributed energy grids.

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