The National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) is a coalition of community solar stakeholders working to expand access to affordable community solar to every American household and enable communities to realize other benefits, such as increased resilience and workforce development. The Partnership is a U.S. Department of Energy initiative led by the Solar Energy Technologies Office, in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Partners leverage peer networks and technical assistance resources to set goals and overcome barriers to expanding community solar access.
The Partnership is open to any individual or organization with an interest in supporting equitable community solar development in the U.S., with many partners representing:
The National Community Solar Partnership's goal is to enable community solar systems to power the equivalent of five million households by 2025 and create $1 billion in energy savings for subscribers. This target represents a 700% increase in community solar deployment, growing from 3 GW of community solar in 2020 to 20 GW in 2025.
This target supports the overall Partnership goals to:
- Make community solar accessible to every U.S. household;
- Ensure community solar is affordable for every U.S. household; and
- Enable communities to realize additional meaningful benefits and value streams from community solar installations.
To meet its goals, the Partnership provides an array of national and local stakeholders—state, local, and tribal governments, utilities, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and others—the tools and information they need to design and implement successful community solar models. The partnership will provide these through three major activities:
- Stakeholder Network: Partners have access to an online community platform, virtual and in-person meetings, webinars, and other tools to engage with U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) staff and each other.
- Technical Assistance: Partners have access to technical assistance resources from DOE, its National Laboratories, and independent third-party subject-matter experts for support on unique local challenges.
- Collaboration: Structured groups of partners and initiatives form around specific goals to address common barriers to solar adoption by learning from each other and sharing resources.
The National Community Solar Partnership was developed to build off of the success of the Solar in Your Community Challenge, which was a prize competition launched in 2017 to identify innovative approaches to support solar deployment among underserved markets, including low- and moderate-income populations, nonprofit organizations, and other community-serving entities, such as local governments. The National Community Solar Partnership program was funded starting in 2019 to increase access to community solar for low- and moderate-income Americans through technical assistance, its stakeholder network, and peer-learning collaboratives.
On January 27, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 14008, which, among other actions, created a government-wide Justice40 Initiative with the goal of delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits of climate and clean energy investments to disadvantaged communities. As a first step toward achieving this goal, DOE launched the Justice40 Initiative, which identified 21 priority Federal programs to serve as pilots for the Justice40 Initiative. These pilot programs immediately began enhancing benefits to disadvantaged communities and are serving as a blueprint for other agencies and programs as they determine how to implement the Justice40 Initiative across the entire Federal government.
The National Community Solar Partnership is one of 21 priority programs included in the Justice40 Pilot Program and is already taking steps toward enhancing benefits to disadvantaged communities, including expanding its plan for stakeholder engagement, reviewing its implementation strategy for maximizing the delivery of benefits to disadvantaged communities, and creating a methodology for calculating how those program benefits are distributed to disadvantaged communities.
Stakeholder Engagement Plan:
Stakeholder engagement is a core tenant of the National Community Solar Partnership strategy. The Partnership is building on the success of its summit, webinars, 2021 Request for Information and stakeholder convenings to broaden its network of stakeholders and deepen its relationships with partners. The Partnership continues to conduct outreach to critical internal and external stakeholder groups including Federal agencies, National Laboratories, community-based organizations, solar developers, state and local governments, financial institutions, philanthropic investors, utilities, consumer advocates, and third-party technical assistance providers, prioritizing stakeholders that represent or serve disadvantaged communities. The Partnership is providing multiple methods for engagement including stakeholder convenings, webinars, the online community platform, requests for information, blog posts, and the website.
The Partnership is also working across the Department of Energy offices to streamline feedback requests to reduce the burden on stakeholders, ensure value is provided for participation in feedback activities, and share broadly the feedback received through stakeholder engagement events.
To maximize the program benefits delivered to disadvantaged communities, the Partnership has identified opportunities to address the most persistent barriers to equitable community solar deployment, as highlighted through stakeholder engagement efforts. These opportunities include:
- Developing programs that improve access to project capital;
- Deepening collaboration with state and local governments;
- Increasing the production, dissemination, and accessibility of resources and best practices;
- Improving NCSP communication materials, including updating the NCSP website, launching a project spotlight series, and holding targeted stakeholder convenings;
- Creating tools to improve customer acquisition;
- Expanding technical assistance opportunities; and
- Improving data collection and sharing across partners.
The Partnership is using this and future feedback to inform program activities and strategic planning.