By Silvio Marcacci, Communications Director at Energy Innovation
Published by Forbes
Residential rooftop solar projects in the U.S. have historically been installed on wealthier, single-family households, meaning companies typically target higher-income households with their marketing efforts. Residential solar installations continue to grow across the country, but this focus is overlooking a massive growth opportunity: Low-to-moderate income (LMI) households.
A new first-of-its-kind report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) finds nearly half of all U.S. residential rooftop solar technical potential is on LMI households, and LMI solar capacity could total 320 gigawatts (GW) of potential solar installations across America.
Read more here.
Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Energy
MORE RENEWABLE ENERGY NEWS
- How to Buy a Wind Farm: One family office did it. Now you can too, Bloomberg
Operating wind and solar farms typically benefit from long-term contracts with investment-grade utilities. They tend to perform well, so there’s a high probability of steady, decades long revenue. It’s the type of investment that’s now attracting institutional investors such as pension funds and insurers.
- Amherst, Hampshire, Smith join college solar energy collaborative, Massachusetts Live
AMHERST – Five New England liberal arts colleges have joined together to create a solar power facility that will offset 46,000 megawatt-hours of their collective electrical use. The partnership represents the first collaborative purchase of New England-generated solar electricity by higher-education institutions, according to a press release.
- Tech firms like Google, Amazon push power companies toward solar and wind, a blow to coal, USA Today. Since 2008, renewable energy has gone from 9% to 18% of the U.S. energy mix, according to the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. A big part of that shift stems from tech companies’ rapid buildout of cloud storage centers and a move to burnish their public image by vowing they’ll run these centers on sources like wind and solar. Rather than lose these deep-pocketed customers, the nation’s power companies are changing policies and crafting deals that meet increased demands for renewable energy, in some cases shifting away from traditional electricity supplies like coal and natural gas. Even in coal mining states like West Virginia . . . Today, corporate America is happy to throw its weight around, said Bryn Baker, the World Wildlife Fund’s deputy director of renewable energy. “Companies are coming in and saying, ‘If you want us to be here, you have to give us access to clean energy.’”
NEWS FROM ILLINOIS
- Getting solar power in Illinois beyond FEJA, PV Magazine
Illinois’s solar market under the Future Energy Jobs Act is just getting started, but a business group is calling for the next governor and state legislature to provide less restriction and more action in community and distributed solar programs.
- Solar farms set to sprout across Illinois, Chicago Tribune
Drawn by new state requirements and incentives, renewable energy developers are staking out turf on the rural fringes of the Chicago area and beyond, looking to build dozens of solar farms to feed the electric grids of Commonwealth Edison and other utilities. Illinois plans to add 2,800 megawatts of new solar energy over the next few years.
By Lew Milford and Robert Sanders, Clean Energy Group
Current clean energy financing models do not sufficiently serve low-income communities. As a result, solar+storage projects are vastly underrepresented in affordable housing and community facilities, meaning that low-income communities are unable to enjoy the benefits of clean, affordable and resilient power.
This paper describes emerging finance models to address the energy equity challenge and to level the financing playing field. The paper explores additional ownership and financing options for solar+storage projects and low-income communities beyond direct ownership and conventional leasing models. It makes a simple point: there are ownership and financing strategies that can provide many of the economic and other benefits of direct ownership, while overcoming some of the risks and barriers that direct ownership may entail for many project developers. Learn more here.
Upcoming Webinar: New Financing Options for Solar+Storage in Low-Income Communities
MORE SOLAR+STORAGE NEWS
ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING
- Five energy industry trends of tomorrow impacting companies today, Utility Dive Guest Opinion by Alan Russo, senior vice president at REC Solar, which was recently acquired by Duke Energy Renewables.
- SEU 2018 survey: Utilities shaken, not moved, by Trump policies: Utility Dive’s fifth annual State of the Electric Utility survey shows a sector committed to the clean energy transition, but wary of policies coming out of Washington.
- 100+ Cities Now Powered by at Least 70% Renewables, EcoWatch
A growing list of cities and municipalities is leading a renewable energy revolution that their national governments either cannot—or will not—address. More than 100 cities around the world now get at least 70 percent of their electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower, according to new research from the non-profit CDP. That’s more than double the 40 cities reporting they were powered by at least 70 percent clean energy in 2015.
- Report: Cities of all sizes can achieve sustainable energy solutions, Smart Cities Dive
Some states have banded together to form the U.S. Climate Alliance, nearly 70 mayors have signed the Chicago Climate Charter, and more than 230 U.S. mayors jointly sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to oppose its proposed repeal of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.
- World’s Largest Coal Miner Says It’s a ‘Matter of Time’ for Renewables to Replace Coal, EcoWatch Even the world’s largest coal miner thinks the rise of renewable energy and storage technology will pose a “significant threat” to the coal sector.
- Sonnen unveils a free smart home charger that always charges your EV from cheap solar power, Electrek
The following Clean Energy States Alliance webinars are a part of the organization’s Sustainable Solar Education Project , which aims to help state and local governments support the sustainable growth of the distributed solar market by ensuring that solar PV remains consumer friendly, and benefits low- and moderate-income households:
- Using Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) Funds for Low-Income Solar, January 11
As solar costs have declined, interest in using WAP funds for low-income solar deployment has increased. A state seeking to integrate solar into WAP must obtain approval from the U.S. Department of Energy to include the technology in its program. This approval process includes demonstrating the effectiveness of solar in generating savings.
- Using Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Funds for Low-Income Solar, January 16
LIHEAP serves as an emergency bill assistance service, but state LIHEAP administrators have flexibility to use some program funds to reduce long-term dependence on energy assistance. Some argue that these LIHEAP funds should be used for low-income solar.
- Follow-Up Discussion: Using Federal Low-Income Energy Assistance Programs for Solar, January 25. This webinar is open to state and municipal officials only.
The interactive webinar discussion is a follow-up to the two earlier webinars. Guest speakers from both webinars will participate in this follow-up discussion. Participants will be invited to respond to the earlier webinars, share their ideas and experiences, and ask questions.
Please see our calendar for additional information and registration links.
Nebraska Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Nebraska Low Income Weatherization Assistance Program
By Joseph Bebon, Solar Industry Magazine
IREC has released a new guide developed for local governments, housing providers, utilities and other interested stakeholders to better understand the various pathways to solar for multifamily housing, based on the experience in Seattle, Wash. According to the group, the guide will help states and municipalities as they develop the tools needed to make this next step toward a cleaner and more equitable energy future. Read more here.
The guide, titled “Access for All: Pathways to Expand Solar Options to Renters and Multifamily Households in the City of Seattle,” is available for download here.
Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) Website
ALSO OF POTENTIAL INTEREST
- Audio: New California law helps low-income people go solar: The state plans to invest $1 billion in solar at affordable housing complexes, Yale Climate Connections
- $400,000 in Duke Energy solar grants awarded to not-for-profit organizations serving low-income Indiana populations, Business Insider
- Groups look to expand solar bulk-buying programs in Minnesota, Midwest Energy News
- Empire District to shift from coal generation to wind in new plan, Utility Dive
- Storage group CEO outlines priorities, benefits for public power, American Public Power Association
- Is solar+storage eligible for net metering in Massachusetts? Tesla and others want to know, Utility Dive. Massachusetts could be the first state to provide comprehensive guidance focused solely on pairing energy storage with solar panels.
- Las Vegas shines as a model for solar power, Christian Science Monitor
- Tesla Wants to Put Puerto Rico Back on the Grid, Mother Jones
- Tesla’s solar vision gets its first big test in Puerto Rico, Grist
- SPP Regional State Committee Briefs, RTO Insider. SPP Vice President of Operations Bruce Rew said wind will likely become the No. 2 fuel source for 2017, behind only coal. Coal has accounted for 46.9% of the RTO’s fuel mix year-to-date, with wind averaging 22.0% and gas 19.4%, respectively. Almost 16.7 GW of wind energy is installed and operational in SPP, with another 690 MW registered but not yet operational.
By Joseph Bebon, Solar Industry Magazine
The Colorado Energy Office (CEO) and nonprofit solar installer GRID Alternatives Colorado have announced the completion of a two‐year partnership focused on demonstrating the benefits of community solar for low‐income communities across the state. In 2015, CEO granted GRID $1.2 million to work with rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities to develop accessible, affordable community solar models that provide meaningful bill savings to subscribed customers and reduce household energy burden.
In Colorado, approximately 30% of households – many located in rural areas – are considered energy burdened, meaning they pay more than 4% of their income on utility bills. Of that 30% in Colorado, 11% are considered energy impoverished, paying more than 10% of their income on utility bills. Continue reading.
Photo Credit: GRID Alternatives
By Bentham Paulos, Clean Energy States Alliance. Posted by GovTech
The declining cost of solar energy is creating opportunities for all Americans to save money on their energy bills. And no one needs to save money more than low-income consumers, who pay a much higher portion of their income for energy than do other consumers.
But as the saying goes, it takes money to save money. Low-income consumers face barriers that others don’t. They are often renters or live in multifamily housing — and lack ownership of their roofs. They may have little to no savings that can be used to buy solar systems, and low credit scores or a lack of credit history may impede their ability to finance a system. Continue reading.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING
- Illinois issues RFP for utility-scale and brownfield solar, PV Magazine
- Why Minnesota’s Community Solar Program is the Best, PV Solar Report
- US Solar secures financing for 100MW community solar portfoilio, PV Tech
- Kansas Utility Cuts Ribbon On Its First Community Solar Project, Solar Industry Magazine
- Distributed Solar Is Less Expensive Than Delivered Coal Power, Rocky Mountain Institute Blog, RMI Outlet
- Microsoft defects from utility to purchase renewable energy, PV Magazine
- Here’s how cities can go completely renewable. GreenBiz
- China is crushing the US in renewable energy, CNN Money
- Former US Chief Sustainability Officer: The Military Is Leading the March Toward Energy Independence, Greentech Media
- In the heart of coal country, state officials bet on renewable energy, CNBC
Clean Energy States Alliance has just published a new guide, Bringing the Benefits of Solar Energy to Low-Income Consumers, which outlines the obstacles that low-income households face in accessing solar power. It provides a detailed overview of strategies that policymakers and government agencies can use to encourage low-income solar adoption.
Watch the companion webinar this Thursday.
By Todd Olinsky-Paul, Clean Energy States Alliance
This guide seeks to provide state and municipal officials with information to develop effective solar and battery storage (solar+storage) policies and programs that benefit low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities. It explores a range of policy approaches that have been successfully employed and provides program examples from states that have made LMI access to these technologies a priority. Download the report.
Author and CESA Projects Director Todd Olinsky-Paul discussed the report in a recent webinar. Watch it here.
By Frank Andorka, PV Magazine
National non-profits GRID Alternatives and Vote Solar have updated their online tool, the Low-Income Solar Policy Guide, which they first released last year as a one-stop resource for those interesting in democratizing solar energy. Read more here.
ALSO IN THE NEWS
- Journal Sentinel public-utility reporter joins consumer advocacy group, Milwaukee Business Journal. Tom Content, who covered Wisconsin’s public utility industry the past 14 years at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, has been hired as executive director of utility consumer advocacy group the Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin.
- St. Cloud turns to renewable energy to shrink utility bills, Minnesota Public Radio.
“In all likelihood, we’ll be 80 percent renewable energy by 2018,” said Patrick Shea, St. Cloud’s public services director. “I don’t know another municipality of this size in the state that’s at that level.”
- Students spend spring break installing solar panels, KKCO News
- On Display: Smithsonian Shares the History of Solar, Department of Energy Blog
- Soaking up some solar: Kansas power cooperative takes dive into solar energy, Topeka Capital Journal
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Solar Technical Assistance Team (STAT) recently published two resources on making solar electricity more accessible for low- and -moderate income households.
- One of these resources, a blog post authored by NREL’s Alison Holm titled “Solar for Everyone: Increasing Low- and Moderate-Income (LMI) Populations’ Access to Solar Power,” is available here.
- The other resource is on the basics of low- and moderate-income solar policy and can be accessed here.
State and local governments interested in targeted solar technical assistance, including information about making solar more accessible for low and moderate-income households, can learn more and apply here.