Category Archives: Solar for Lower-Income Households

DOE Sets 2025 Community Solar Target to Power 5 Million Homes

The U.S. Department of Energy today announced a new National Community Solar Partnership target: to enable community solar systems to power the equivalent of five million households by 2025 and create $1 billion in energy bill savings. Reaching these milestones will help achieve the Biden-Harris Administration’s goals of achieving 100% clean electricity by 2035 and ensure that all Americans can reap the benefits of renewable energy while building community wealth and resiliency.

“Community solar is one of the most powerful tools we have to provide affordable solar energy to all American households, regardless of whether they own a home or have a roof suitable for solar panels,” said Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm. “Achieving these ambitious targets will lead to meaningful energy cost savings, create jobs in these communities, and make our clean energy transition more equitable.” Read more here.

NREL WEBINAR

Save the Date! October 26, 2021, 1 to 2 pm Central Time: 3 GW and Growing: Trends in the Community Solar Market

Join the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to hear the latest on community solar deployment trends across the United States. The webinar will cover topics such as the financial value that residential community solar subscribers receive, the potential for community solar to be used to reduce consumers’ energy burden, and the policy and deployment status of programs targeting low- and moderate-income subscribers.

LOCAL SOLAR FOR ALL COALITION REPORT

New Report Shows Rapidly Increasing Distributed Solar and Storage is Critical to Achieving President Biden’s Climate and Equity Goals at the Lowest Cost, Local Solar for All News Release, Business Wire

The key findings include:

  • At least 103 GW of distributed solar and 137 GW of distributed storage must be deployed by 2030 to achieve President Biden’s goals at the lowest cost.
  • Scaling up distributed solar and storage reduces stress on utility-scale resources and enables access to 579 GW of utility-scale solar and 442 GW of wind.
  • Scaling up distributed solar and storage saves all ratepayers over $109 billion by 2030 compared to deploying utility-scale renewables only.
  • Increasing local solar and storage would lead to the creation of more than 1.2 million new American jobs by 2030.

Not included in the report, but key to achieving President Biden’s Justice40 goals, is the ability for 50% of local rooftop and community solar capacity to be directed to low- to moderate-income (LMI) households, which could lower the energy burden for between 8-15 million LMI households.

Click the following link to learn more about the coalition:
www.localsolarforall.org.

Illinois energy bill proposes ‘green bank’ as national movement builds

By Kari Lydersen, Energy News Network

Illinois would get a “green bank” to finance equity-focused clean energy investments under the latest version of the Clean Energy Jobs Act pending in the state legislature. If the proposal passes, Illinois would join more than a dozen states including Florida, New York and Connecticut that use publicly funded green banks to leverage private investment for renewables, energy efficiency and other projects, especially in communities that have been underrepresented in the clean energy economy.  The state-level proposal comes as a federal bill with bipartisan support would create a national green bank — dubbed the Clean Energy Accelerator —  that would work in tandem with state banks. Continue reading here.

Photo by Jim Bowen / Creative Commons

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

FEATURED STUDY

Recognition of and response to energy poverty in the United States, Nature Energy

Abstract
A household is energy poor when they cannot meet energy needs. Despite its prevalence, the US has not formally recognized energy poverty as a problem distinct from general poverty at the federal level, which limits effective responses. In this review, the authors examine the measurement and evaluative metrics used by the two federally-funded energy programs focused on reducing high energy bills to understand how program eligibility requirements and congressional funding appropriations have shaped the national understanding and implementation of energy poverty assistance. We find that current measurement and evaluative metrics hinge on the distribution of government resources and the number of vulnerable households assisted, rather than improving household well-being and reducing overall energy poverty.

SOLAR+STORAGE GUIDE

Understanding Solar+Storage: Answers to Commonly Asked Questions About Solar PV and Battery Storage, Clean Energy Group Publication

The guide is informed by more than six years of experience through Clean Energy Group’s work with property owners, developers, nonprofits, and communities to advance solar+storage in underserved communities. The questions and topic areas addressed in the guide are based on feedback from nearly one hundred stakeholders who submitted questions about solar+storage.

The information presented in the guide focuses primarily on customer-sited, behind-the-meter solar+storage installations, though much of the information is relevant to other types of projects as well, including storage-only projects and front-of-the-meter solar+storage projects. It is meant to serve as a starting point to establish a foundation of knowledge and understanding for individuals and organizations beginning to explore solar+storage options for their homes, businesses, or community facilities.

A Spanish-language version of this guide is available here.

SOLAR SCHOOLS

NYC installing solar at nearly 50 public schools, other facilities, PV Magazine
The 22 MW of solar projects are expected to include some energy storage systems and help New York City and the state meet sustainability goals.

ELECTRIC MACHINES & VEHICLES

AFFORDABLE ELECTRIC SCHOOL BUSES 

Report: Accelerating The Transition To Electric School Buses: How schools, lawmakers, and utilities can work together to speed the transition to zero emission buses. Released by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund.

The vast majority of school buses in the United States run on diesel, a fossil fuel that has been shown to cause numerous health problems, including asthma, bronchitis, and cancer. Diesel exhaust is also a greenhouse gas, which contributes to climate change.

However, there is an alternative: zero-emission battery electric school buses. The technology is here, and electric school buses are ready to roll, but the question remains: how do schools pay for them? While electric buses can save schools money over the lifespan of the bus, the initial price tag of a new electric bus can turn many schools off to the idea of electrification.

Particularly promising options are vehicle-to-grid technology and Pay-As-You-Save (PAYS) programs. By pairing them, “each electric bus could save school districts up to $130,000 per electric bus.”

Download the Report.

FEATURED LEGAL ACTION

Midwest Renewable Energy Association Files Lawsuit to Open Solar and Other Clean Energy Opportunities for Wisconsinites, Earthjustice News Release

STEVENS POINT, WI — The Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) filed a lawsuit in Wisconsin Circuit Court to remove barriers preventing Wisconsinites from accessing the benefits of local clean energy development. MREA’s filing asks the court to ensure that the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) sticks to regulating monopoly utility companies and does not illegally interfere with competitive clean energy alternatives for Wisconsin families and businesses.

MREA’s lawsuit specifically challenges two unlawful policies that stifle Wisconsin’s clean energy economy. First, MREA challenges guidance documents from the PSCW that preclude financing options available in most other states where solar energy is more affordable. MREA also challenges a PSCW order that unlawfully prohibits Wisconsin homes and businesses from utilizing market incentives to reduce their power consumption during peak hours and thereby reduce power costs for everyone.

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit public interest environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change.

About The Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA)

The Midwest Renewable Energy Association promotes renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable living through education and demonstration.Together with partners around the Midwest, we work to expand renewable energy adoption through innovative programs, renewable energy training, and educational events. MREA is a nonprofit organization.

Renewables on Tribal Land: Addressing Environmental and Economic Equity on the Path to a Clean Energy Economy

National Law Review article by Bart J. Freedman, Teresa A. Hill,
Benjamin A Mayer, K&L Gates LLP

Demand for renewable energy projects has never been greater. The newest, latest trend is the push for renewable energy projects with positive social impacts and benefits to marginalized communities. Indeed, some of the most significant consumers and supporters of renewable and carbon-free power are now making environmental and economic justice a central focus and condition of their use of and investments in clean energy projects. Utility leaders have identified racial justice as a top concern in the transition to a clean energy economy. Key stakeholders and influential civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, have created toolkits and are advocating for just energy policies and practices. The Rocky Mountain Institute announced this summer that it will be launching a residential solar program to expand the use of solar in communities of color. At the same time, clean energy transition legislation throughout the country is accelerating the need for carbon-free resources, including wind, solar, and storage projects, to replace traditional fossil fuel resources, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, to power the grid. Continue reading here. 

Photo Credit: The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

FEATURED GREEN BIZ WEBINAR

Embedding Social and Environmental Benefits in Renewable Energy, October 15, 2020 at 12 pm
Renewable energy deployments are on the rise. The U.S. alone is expected to add 132 to 157GW of new renewable energy capacity in the next five years. How and where that renewable energy is deployed can drive radically different outcomes — with the potential to maximize positive impact for a range of stakeholders or limit benefits to just a few. 

Moderator
Sarah Golden, Senior Energy Analyst & VERGE Energy Chair, GreenBiz

Speakers

  • Megan Lorenzen, Sustainability Manager, Salesforce
  • Bruce McKenney, Director for Strategic Initiatives, Energy & Infrastructure, The Nature Conservancy 
  • Henry Richardson, Senior Analyst, WattTime.org
  • Alex Klonick, Manager, REBA

CLEAN TECHNICA REPORT

  • Top Solar Power States Per Capita, by Zachary Shahan
    As you can see, the top solar power state per capita is probably not the one that came to mind for almost all of you. Would I have guessed that it would be Nevada? Nope. In fact, Nevada is so far in the lead that it has more than double the amount of solar power installed per capita as #6 Vermont, and nearly double the results for #5 North Carolina. That said, the top 5 states are certainly states that lead for solar in a variety of ways. Nevada, Hawaii, California, Arizona, and North Carolina all have great solar resources, and they have policies that provide just enough incentive for large corporations, utilities, small businesses, and homeowners to go solar.
  • Solar Energy Generation in Nebraska, Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy 

MORE ON NEBRASKA’S PLUM CREEK WIND FARM

BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY ENERGY’S ROCKY MOUNTAIN POWER IN THE NEWS

Wyoming, Utility Clash Over Coal-Boosting, Climate Fighting Tech, Bloomberg Law
Coal-dependent Wyoming, aided by a Trump administration study, is arguing for extending the life of the state’s coal-fired power plants and others across the country by retrofitting old plants with technology that would capture and either store or use climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions. But Rocky Mountain Power, a subsidiary of PacifiCorp, wants to retire several of its aging coal-generation plants in Wyoming ahead of schedule and invest roughly $4 billion in new wind energy, transmission, and battery storage projects in the state. And environmental groups favor that plan, rather than extending the life of coal plants.

COLORADO

  • Why Colorado needs an RTO, by Allen Best, Mountain Town News
    On a September morning in which smoke was wafting eastward across the Great Plains from the wildfires in the Rocky Mountains and the West Coast, I sat in a cabin near Nebraska’s Lake McConaughy to hear representatives of Colorado’s two largest electrical utilities and one state legislator explain how they thought Colorado might get an RTO or its close relative, an ISO. The former once again stands for regional transmission organization, and the latter an independent system operator. The function in both cases is much the same. These organizations pool electrical generation resources and also consolidate transmission.
  • Recommended reading about the Interconnection Seams Study, which Allen Best references in the above article: How a Plan to Save the Power System Disappeared, The Atlantic and Investigate West
  • Also Written by Allen Best: Colorado utilities fear wildfire risk — and liability — amid warming climate, Energy News Network
  • Solar-powered steel production from Lightsource bp’s Bighorn Project in Colorado, PV Magazine
    The iron and steel sector is the “world’s largest industrial source of climate pollution.” This steel mill in Pueblo, Colorado will be the first in North America to rely on solar power.

GLOBAL ENERGY STORAGE

Global storage heading to 741 GWh by 2030, WoodMac projects, amid ongoing challenges, Utility Dive

Global energy storage capacity could amount to 741 GWh by the end of the decade, representing a 31% compound annual growth rate, analysis from Wood Mackenzie has found — and the U.S. could make up nearly half of that.

In Massachusetts, more houses of worship are turning to solar power

Written by Sarah Shimkus, Energy News Network 

Houses of worship in Massachusetts are increasing their adoption of solar power, a trend that advocates say can both influence community attitudes toward renewable electricity and help more low-income households take advantage of the benefits of clean energy. At least 64 houses of worship in Massachusetts had solar installations in operation last year, a 14% increase from 2017 and second only to California, according to a report from Interfaith Power and Light, a national campaign to mobilize religious response to climate change. Increasing urgency about climate change, falling prices for solar panels, development of more versatile financing options, and growing awareness of renewable energy are coming together to drive yet further growth in the sector. Continue reading here. 

Photo: South Church in Andover, Massachusetts

SETTING AN EXAMPLE IN NEBRASKA

Unitarian Church of Lincoln, a nationally-certified Green Sanctuary.
Project: 25-kilowatt south-facing solar array. The church has also installed a geothermal heating and cooling system, energy efficient lighting and a number of other energy and water conservation features.
Archived News Story: Renovated Unitarian Church is more Earth-friendly, by Erin Andersen, Lincoln Journal Star
Installer: Dixon Power Systems based in Lincoln, Nebraska

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