Category Archives: Solar for Lower-Income Households

Op-Ed: Clean Air or a Thriving Economy? We Can Have Both

By Joseph L. Fiordaliso, President, New Jersey
Board of Public Utilities, New Jersey Spotlight 

This is a pivotal moment in history, as we collectively start down the path to the “new normal.” This bittersweet opportunity to rebuild our lives with longevity and resiliency in mind should not be wasted. Now, more than ever, by investing in renewable energies like offshore wind and community solar, maximizing our energy efficiency, and electrifying transportation, we can ensure a healthier future exists alongside a thriving clean-energy economy.

In fact, the New York Times reported last month that renewable energy sources are set to account for nearly 21% of the electricity the United States uses for the first time this year, noting that industry executives and analysts expect the renewable business to continue growing in 2020 and next year, even as oil, gas and coal companies struggle.
Read more here.

WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY CLIMATE COMMITMENTS

Business And Government Affirm Climate Commitments On World Environment Day, The Climate Group. As leaders from around the world discuss how to organize a green economic recovery after the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is over, these businesses are leading the charge by signing up to international non-profit The Climate Group’s corporate leadership initiatives on renewables (RE100), electric vehicles (EV100) and smart energy use (EP100).

THE CLIMATE GROUP’S FIRST-EVER RE100 LEADERSHIP AWARDS 

Going Above And Beyond: The Future Of Renewable Energy Leadership, The Climate Group
As markets evolve and expectations grow, the leadership bar is rising for global companies on their use of clean energy. This year we’ll be celebrating the RE100 members taking their pioneering renewable electricity commitments to the next level. As we launch the first ever RE100 Leadership Awards, our Head of RE100 Sam Kimmins asks, what might this new leadership look like? 

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

TRIBAL RENEWABLE ENERGY DEVELOPMENT

Navajo Women Are Bringing Sustainable Solar Power to the Navajo Nation, Global Citizen
There are tribes that don’t have access to the grid because they weren’t in the planning process and weren’t considered,” Wahleah Johns, cofounder of Native Renewables, told Global Citizen.

CU SOLAR FINANCING MODEL

Tech CU Expands $2 Billion Solar Power Deal With Fintech, Credit Union Times
New agreement is expected to finance the installation of 80,000 residential solar systems.

NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT

Outdated NEPA needs modernizing. Just ask Warren Buffett, Utility Dive. Contributed article by Paul Griffin, executive director at Energy Fairness.

”In our experience, environmental review of a proposed solar plant on public land can take three to five years…streamlining and expediting NEPA reviews could reduce costs and delays that have hampered permitting decisions for solar energy facilities.” – Solar Energy Industries Association

INFRASTRUCTURE

Energy, environment issues to resurface this summer, E&E News
The long-awaited infrastructure package may finally provide some relief for clean energy advocates who have patiently been awaiting congressional action to address the hundreds of thousands of jobs lost in the sector from COVID-19 (E&E Daily, May 29).
The centerpiece of the package will be the $760 billion framework unveiled by House Democrats in January. The plan, dubbed “Moving Forward,” includes major funding for roads, bridges, ports, airports, drinking water, wastewater, clean energy and broadband.

EUROPE’S ENERGY TRANSFORMATION

WoodMac: Wind, Solar and Storage to Dominate Europe’s Power Grid by 2030, Greentech Media. Batteries will beat natural gas peakers on cost across Europe by the end of the decade, according to new research from Wood Mackenzie.

Report: Utilities could help connect low-income customers with solar

Written by Kari Lydersen, Energy News Network

Recently the Environmental Law & Policy Center and national groups Grid Alternatives and Vote Solar called on utilities to do more to facilitate solar access for their low-income customers nationwide. Last month they released a low-income solar policy guide, which makes recommendations and highlights best practices including programs by Xcel Energy in Minnesota and Colorado and others in California and Washington, D.C.

But in the heart of the industrial Midwest — Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan towns and cities hugging the Great Lakes — low-income people have little access to solar. And some utilities have even tried to turn low-income people against solar, framing rooftop solar as the purview of elites that leaves others paying more to keep up the grid. Read more here.

 

Principles and Recommendations for Utility Participation In Solar Programs for Low-Inome Customers. Prepared by the Environmental Law & Policy Center, GRID Alternatives, and Vote Solar

 

Top Image Credit: National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

Inspiring story from Illinois: How fourth-graders provided the spark for solar panels at Big Hollow campus

By Mick Zawislak, Daily Herald

The installation of solar panels on the Big Hollow Elementary District 38 campus in Ingleside is a lesson in persistence prompted by fourth-graders. Spread along the rolling terrain in two sections — the smaller near the school bus parking lot and the larger on the west side of Wilson Road — the panels will produce enough energy to cover about 85% of the district’s power needs and save about $90,000 a year. Continue reading here.

SEIA Resource: Solar Power Purchase Agreements
More Illinois NewsMaking Galesburg model city for solar, Review Atlas 

IN NEBRASKA

NEWS FROM OTHER STATES

MULTI-STATE SOLAR AGGREGATION

Standard Solar gets creative to finance this 18-rooftop, multi-state solar portfolio for Iron Mountain Inc, Solar Builder Magazine

“Through our partnership with Standard Solar, we have been able to build a holistic program that allows Iron Mountain to seamlessly install on-site solar in multiple states. This program is helping Iron Mountain progress towards meeting their environmental goals of RE100 and the Science Based Target Initiative in a cost effective and simple to implement method,” said Lauren Fitch CBRE Energy Manager for Iron Mountain. Standard Solar also partnered with OnSwitch, whose patented AI-powered SkyQuotes platform makes it simpler for solar developers and building owners to evaluate, buy/finance and install commercial solar energy solutions at a guaranteed lowest price, to help maximize cost savings for the projects.

 CLIMATE RISKS & RESILIENCE

Trend: Corporate climate reporting gets physical, contributed GreenBiz article by Lauren Smart, Managing Director, Global Head of ESG Commercial at Trucost, part of S&P Global.

What will companies gain from reporting physical risks? Risk mitigation, for starters. Research by Trucost highlights the scale of corporate exposure: almost 60 percent of companies in the S&P 500 (market capitalization of $18 trillion) and more than 40 percent in the S&P Global 1200 ($27.3 trillion) hold assets at high risk of physical climate change impacts. Identifying these exposures and building business continuity and resilience plans is critical. It’s not just companies in the obvious sectors, such as agricultural value chains or resource-intensive ones, that are vulnerable. For many U.S. financial companies, which may have thought their exposure to climate risks was minimal, 2012’s Superstorm Sandy was a wake-up call.

GLOBAL ENERGY TRANSITION

 Previously Posted

U.S. Solar Market and 15 States See Best Quarter Ever for Residential Solar

Solar Energy Industries News Release

The U.S. residential solar market reached record highs in the third quarter of 2019 with 712 megawatts of solar installed, according to the latest U.S. Solar Market Insight report from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The U.S. solar market added 2.6 gigawatts of solar photovoltaics in the third quarter, swelling total U.S. solar capacity to 71.3 gigawatts. Read more here.

Additional Recommended Reading

Nicole Steele: Solar power offers a cleaner, better energy future

Guest Columnist, The Virginian-Pilot

Dominion Energy recently announced a request for proposals for up to 500 megawatts of wind and solar under Virginia’s Grid Transformation & Security Act, and the 2018 Virginia Energy Plan — released by Gov. Ralph Northam on
Oct. 1 — calls for the addition of 3,000 megawatts of solar and wind in the state by the year 2022. It’s an exciting turning point, but as we move forward, we need to make sure Virginia’s transition to clean energy includes and benefits all of our communities. Equitable solar policies targeting low- and middle-income households will keep money in the local economy, allow communities to build wealth and create local jobs. Read more here.

Nicole Steele is the executive director of nonprofit GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic. GRID Mid-Atlantic, serving Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia and Delaware, is a leader in making clean, affordable solar power and solar jobs accessible to low-income communities and communities of color.

NEWS FROM OTHER STATES

Minnesota’s largest solar farm project moving ahead in far southwestern corner, Duluth News Tribune. A Minneapolis-based renewable energy development company continues to work with landowners in Rock County in far southwest Minnesota on what could be the state’s largest solar farm covering 1,600 acres. Geronimo Energy is proposing a 150- to 200-megawatt solar farm. The largest solar farm currently in operation in the state is 150 megawatts. 

Kansas’ Cloud County Community College adds 200-kW solar array to pro-renewables campus, Solar Power World. The installation of an on-campus solar site commences new solar energy classes of Cloud County Community College’s Solar Energy Technology program. The site will service the campus’s energy needs, and will be installed by students enrolled in the program. Historically focusing on wind energy, solar was a natural transition. 

Residential solar co Freedom Forever enters Colorado market, Renewables Now. According to Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), solar energy production is expected to surpass 1,800 MW in Colorado in five years.

Related:
 Clean Energy Experts: 100% Renewable Energy Could Come Before 2040, CBS Denver

MORE ENERGY TRANSITION NEWS

America’s Wind Farms Are Ready to Go It Alone, Bloomberg
For a quarter-century, the industry has been supported by federal tax credits that helped it attract $250 billion in investments and create 100,000 jobs, according to the American Wind Energy Association. That support ends next year, but analysts and executives say the credits have done what they were supposed to do: make the industry competitive. AWEA Public Domain Photo.

Canadian company reboots northern Minnesota solar panel factory

By Frank Jossi, Midwest Energy News

Ontario-based Heliene, Inc. has begun operations in a 25,000-square-foot factory in Mountain Iron, a city of nearly 3,000 people on Minnesota’s Iron Range, and it plans to hire 130 employees by September . . . Minnesota’s growing community solar garden program, the largest in the country, has been a boon for the company, and Illinois may represent the next big market for Heliene.  Read more here.

Thinkstock Photo

NEBRASKA IN THE NEWS

WEC Energy bets on solar, wind and natural gas. So, what about coal?, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Wisconsin Public Service, the subsidiary of WEC Energy Group that operates in northeastern Wisconsin, and Madison Gas and Electric plan to invest a total of $390 million to buy 300 megawatts of generating capacity — enough electricity for more than 70,000 residential customers — in two solar power projects . . . WEC also plans to invest $424 million in wind projects in Illinois and Nebraska that will sell power to other companies.

MORE NEWS & COMMENTARY FROM OTHER STATES

FEATURED RESOURCE: LOW-INCOME SOLAR POLICY GUIDE

The Low-Income Solar Policy Guide was originally developed and launched in 2016 by nonprofits GRID AlternativesVote Solar, and the Center for Social Inclusion, to help drive the proposal and adoption of new low-income solar policies and programs, both as stand-alone efforts and as part of broader renewable energy programs. GRID Alternatives and Vote Solar are current contributing partners to the Guide. It is meant to be a tool for policymakers, community leaders and others who are working on solar access at the federal, state and local level.
Resources Include:
Financing
Federal And State Tax Credits
Grants And Technical Assistance

NEW EV ANALYSIS

Electric vs. Diesel vs. Natural Gas: Which Bus is Best for the Climate?, by Jimmy O’Dea, Vehicles Analyst, Union of Concerned Scientists

GLOBAL NEWS

Solar Is Saving Low-Income Households Money in Colorado. It Could Be a National Model.

By Dan Gearing, Inside Climate News

Colorado is emerging as a national model for how to expand renewable energy to low-income homes. The state has been pursuing low-income solar programs since 2015, and it’s on track to have 20 megawatts installed by the end of 2019 as those programs ramp up. The total is the combination of several programs that, working with utilities and charitable organizations, provide rooftop installations and community solar arrays to help customers save money. One key to Colorado’s success is that much of the rooftop solar work is being run by county and regional weatherization offices that already provide insulation and other energy efficiency services. Read more here.

Photo by GRID Alternatives

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

This Untapped Market Could Add 320 Gigawatts Of New U.S. Residential Solar Energy

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.

New White Paper: Owning the Benefits of Solar+Storage – Plus More News

By Lew Milford and Robert Sanders, Clean Energy Group

Summary
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

3 CESA Webinars to Focus on Using Energy Assistance Program Funds for Low-Income Solar as a Longterm Solution

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