Despite decreases in system costs, many U.S. households still lack access to affordable solar electricity—especially renters, homeowners who can’t access affordable financing, and those without suitable roof conditions or adequate sun exposure.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) works to ensure that the benefits of solar are delivered to all U.S. households by increasing equitable access to solar energy and supporting the growth of a diverse and well-supported solar workforce. SETO provides resources, technical assistance, and other support for equitable solar solutions, inclusive of community solar, low-income rooftop solar, and other distributed solar + storage solutions located in or benefiting low-income or disadvantaged communities.
Through a Partnership Intermediary Agreement with ENERGYWERX, SETO developed the Equitable Solar Communities of Practice program to support the equitable distribution of the benefits of solar. These communities of practice, (a group of organizations with expertise in equitable solar, to include one ‘lead organization’ and up to six core team members) will convene over a 6-month period in 2024, to identify resource gaps, support the development and dissemination of best practices and resources, and identify and propose new resources, tools, technical assistance offerings needed to scale equitable solar across five categories:
- Equitable access and consumer protections, including contract terms that support strong consumer protections for low-income households, availability of financial products to support installation/participation among all households, and inclusive outreach.
- Meaningful household savings, including guaranteed bill and/or household savings, wealth building opportunities, and other benefits such as tenant benefits provided to residents in master-metered buildings beyond those provided prior to solar being utilized.
- Resilience, storage, and grid benefits, including household- and community-level resilience, grid strengthening and grid-level resilience, and improved health outcomes through reduced or shortened power outages.
- Community-led economic development, including opportunities for community ownership, community benefits agreements, entrepreneurship, and increased support for local-, small-, minority-, and women-owned businesses, and community participation in project or program design.
- Solar workforce, including policies that ensure jobs are accessible to workers from all backgrounds, provide competitive wages and benefits, and offer opportunities for union membership. This will also cover programs that prepare and sustain a skilled and diverse clean energy workforce such as online and in-person training and education programs, and work-based learning opportunities. This includes internships and apprenticeships, collegiate competitions, certification programs, and support services such as career counseling, mentorship, and job readiness.
To achieve these objectives, each Equitable Solar Community of Practice will be led by expert organizations that will convene key stakeholders, compile best practices, and identify pathways to scale solutions for each of the meaningful benefits.
Request for Proposals
On November 9, 2023, ENERGYWERX opened submissions for applications from industry experts to serve as lead organizations for one or more of the five proposed communities of practice. Lead organizations will be eligible for $75,000 in funding per community of practice, distributed based on the completion of project milestones.
Outcomes for each Community of Practice include:
- Establishing a core team of experts to support strategy and develop key deliverables.
- Completing a literature review and gap analysis to identify the current landscape for each of the meaningful benefit categories.
- Holding one virtual community convening to bring together public stakeholders to discuss the main barriers, successes, and models to scale each benefit.
- Writing a best practice report that identifies best practices, existing or potential programs and tools, and scalable models to address barriers to expanding the meaningful benefit.
- Developing a summary of key needs, activities, and programs, if necessary, for scaling the respective meaningful benefit.
- Sharing findings through DOE-hosted or supported webinars and conference sessions.
ENERGYWERX is searching for applicants who have the following expertise:
- Expert knowledge of and experience in the equitable solar industry at a national or regional level—how policies and programs currently function, how well benefits are currently distributed, and what barriers exist to scale the distribution of these benefits.
- Expert knowledge of and national or regional experience in providing more access to the specific meaningful benefit(s) of the community of practice they are applying to lead.
- Knowledge of and working relationships with local or regional organizations, academic institutions, or community groups.
This opportunity closes on December 8, 2023, at 5 p.m. ET. For more information on this program and to apply, visit the ENERGYWERX Equitable Solar Communities of Practice page.
This funding program is managed by ENERGYWERX in partnership with the DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and is made possible through the innovative Partnership Intermediary Agreement set up by the DOE Office of Technology Transitions.
- Learn more about the funding opportunity by visiting the ENERGYWERX website.
- Learn more about the National Community Solar Partnership and community solar.
- Learn more about the Office of Technology Transitions.
- Sign up for the EERE email list to get notified of new EERE funding opportunities.
- Sign up for the SETO newsletter to stay current with the latest solar office news.