The high upfront cost of solar has always been a barrier to participation for many who would otherwise welcome the chance to green their energy supply. So has a lack of roof ownership for renters. These factors, along with other barriers have given solar somewhat of a reputation — that it’s really only a feasible option for the wealthier homeowner. Many organizations, including IREC, are working to change this by offering solutions to break through these economic barriers.
After all, renewable energy could theoretically be viewed as a great equalizer. Like many energy efficiency programs, solar can be an excellent way to reduce long-term energy costs. But it also goes a step further by providing a hedge against rising energy prices, which often represent a disproportionately large line item on low-income budgets.
States have tried a number of different approaches to facilitating solar development among low-income residents. Massachusetts, for example, provides a “Moderate Home Value” and “Moderate Income Adder,” each equaling an additional $0.40/watt onto the existing state rebate. Vermont also provides an incentive adder under its rebate program for low-income households, schools and non-profits, which can equal up to $1.50/watt higher than would be available for other customers. And in Denver, Colorado, the Clean Energy Collective (CEC) has recently pledged to devote five percent of the power produced by three community solar facilities to low-income residents under a new partnership with the Housing Authority of the City and County of Denver. This Community Solar Low-Income Residential Program will offset the electric bills for approximately 35 families living in the housing authority’s facilities.