Clean Energy Connector

The Clean Energy Connector—formerly known as the Low-Income Clean Energy Connector—is a digital tool that makes community solar subscriptions with savings more accessible to households participating in government-run low-income support programs. Developed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Clean Energy Connector is intended for Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) recipients. LIHEAP is an HHS program that assists eligible low-income households with home energy costs. Expanding community solar to all LIHEAP recipients could lead to gigawatts of new community solar deployment, increased access for low-income households, and billions of dollars in energy savings. 

The Clean Energy Connector (Connector) supports the NCSP target of enabling community solar systems to power the equivalent of 5 million households and create $1 billion in energy bill savings by 2025. The Connector represents the customer engagement initiative on NCSP’s Pathway to Success

How to Get Involved

The pilot phase of the Connector launched in Washington, D.C., Illinois, and New Mexico in March 2024. Interested subscription managers and local LIHEAP agencies who operate in these locations may contact their state community solar program agency and state LIHEAP agency to inquire about joining the pilot phase.  

Throughout 2024 and 2025, DOE intends to open the Connector to additional pilot states that have: 

  • Active community solar programs with specific measures to ensure access for low- to moderate-income customers. The program design must enable minimum savings requirements for such customers and include specified consumer protections. 
  • New low-income community solar capacity coming online and are seeking subscribers within the next year.  
  • Secured support for the Connector from both the state community solar and state LIHEAP administering agencies. The agencies must agree to collaborate and commit staff resources to pilot the Connector. 

States that meet the criteria above and are interested in participating in the pilot phase of the Connector should join DOE’s webinar on April 10, 2024, to learn how to get involved. 

States can also contact DOE will share a State Readiness Assessment to help state community solar and LIHEAP agencies identify next steps for implementing the Connector in their state. If you are a stakeholder in a state that is not yet using the Connector and you are interested in your state’s participation, please contact your state’s community solar administering agency and/or state LIHEAP administering agency to share your interest.  


A collaborative team from NCSP, HHS, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the National Association of State Energy Officials, and the National Energy Assistance Directors Association manage the Connector. The team coordinated with utilities, state and local governments, industry, LIHEAP administrators, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders to develop the software.  

The Connector will address barriers to community solar adoption by income-verified households and enable equitable access to community solar benefits by: 

  • Protecting the consumer by ensuring strong consumer protections for community solar from enrollment through the life of the program, safeguarding consumer data, and providing customers with comprehensive and clear communication and disclosures about community solar and their program. 
  • Lowering electricity bills and high energy burdens for LIHEAP-eligible households over the long-term through enrollment in community solar subscriptions with program savings.  
  • Reducing customer acquisition and management costs of income-verified subscribers for community solar developers and subscription managers by connecting them to pre-qualified applicants through LIHEAP. 
  • Building investor confidence in low-income community solar programs by minimizing the perceived risk and turnover of income-verified subscribers.  
  • Expanding the community solar market and solar workforce to reach its multi-gigawatt potential while ensuring income-verified households have meaningful access to the benefits of clean energy. 


On July 27, 2022, DOE and HHS announced the development of the Connector. Illinois, New Mexico, New York, New Jersey, Colorado, and the District of Columbia have supported the development of the Connector by providing feedback, coordination, beta testing, and data to advance its capabilities so the software can be used nationwide.  

In the fall of 2022, DOE issued a request for information to obtain feedback on the structure of the Connector from community-based organizations, community solar subscription managers and developers, state and local governments, researchers, LIHEAP implementation organizations, and others. Read the summary report of the request for information responses

The project team incorporated feedback into the development of the project while also reaching hundreds of additional stakeholders through webinars, presentations, roundtables, and workshops. To date, DOE has engaged with utilities, affordable housing stakeholders, community-based organizations, developers, subscription managers, state energy offices and/or public utility commissions, state-wide community solar program administrators, state LIHEAP offices, and community action agencies to solicit additional feedback on the development and implementation of the Connector software. The project team also worked closely with additional partner organizations on the development of the Connector software, including: the American Public Power Association, Clean Energy States Alliance, Edison Electric Institute, National Community Action Partnership, National Consumer Law Center, National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition, National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and Solar United Neighbors.  


In the summer of 2023, the Low-Income Community Solar and Energy Assistance Fellowship placed three professionals into pilot states where the Connector is initially being launched to support the development of the software and ensure a smooth roll out across many more states. The three fellows support the following host institutions in their commitment to the Connector: Illinois Power Agency, DC Department of Energy and Environment, and the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. These professionals help the institutions coordinate with DOE and support related state priorities and efforts. 

Join Us

NCSP is an active group of community members, developers, utilities, financial institutions, and governments dedicated to increasing access to, and the benefits of, community solar for all U.S. households. Partners receive access to no-cost, on-demand technical assistance, technical resources, training, events, and an online platform for connecting with other collaborative partners. Register on our Mobilize website to join the partnership today!  

Additional Information

Frequently Asked Questions

Process Questions

  • First, states must individually opt into using the Connector. This includes signing an agreement with NREL and working with DOE to implement the Connector. States should reach out to DOE to express interest.  
  • In states where the Connector is available, community solar subscription managers may create an account, indicate the states in which they work, agree to the consumer protection requirements for each of those states, and then submit their community solar projects with available subscriptions to the Connector.  
  • The state community solar administrator will review and approve new subscription managers to join the Connector and any corresponding community solar projects to ensure subscription managers adhere to the consumer protection requirements, including savings amounts.  
  • The state LIHEAP administrator will also verify and approve new local LIHEAP administrative agencies to create accounts on the Connector. 
  • Local LIHEAP administrators will provide community solar educational materials to households at the time of LIHEAP enrollment. If community solar subscriptions are available, households can opt to enroll in a subscription. If they are not available, households can indicate interest and be added to a waitlist. Households can consent to sharing data securely through the Connector with subscription managers. 
  • With household data consent, local LIHEAP administrators then upload the information to the Connector. Where possible and appropriate, local LIHEAP administrators will receive funding support for providing the educational resources and administrative needs of connecting households to community solar. 
  • Subscription managers will then connect with households that have opted-in to community solar to complete enrollment. Subscription managers may also pay a customer acquisition fee to maintain the Connector and compensate local LIHEAP administrative professionals for their outreach efforts. 

Please see the Connector Knowledge Base for tutorials on setting up an account and using the Connector as the four different user types: state community solar program agency, state LIHEAP agency, subscription manager, and local LIHEAP implementing agency. This includes articles and video tutorials to support users on the Connector. 

  • The Connector is aligned with the Inflation Reduction Act 48(e) tax credit savings definition. Each qualifying household must be provided a bill credit discount rate of at least 20% difference between the financial benefit (utility bill credits, reduction in electricity rate, or other monetary benefits accrued on the utility bill) and the cost of participating in the community solar program (including subscription payments and any other fees and charges) expressed as a percentage of the financial benefit distributed to the household.  
  • States with a unique program design, such as no-cost subscriptions, can work with DOE to establish meaningful savings requirements to be met by projects using the Connector. 

Proof of participation for the 48(e) tax credit may come in a variety of formats and may be issued by the federal, state, Tribal, utility program, or a third-party administrator (e.g., DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office’s Clean Energy Connector). See pages 8-9 of the 48(e) Frequently Asked Questions for more information. 

The Connector currently connects a household with one subscription manager to enroll in a community solar subscription that meets the consumer protection and savings requirements. Household data is not shared widely with companies and subscription managers must adhere to data privacy protections. 

LIHEAP households will not directly use the Connector software. The users of the Connector include subscription managers, local LIHEAP administrators, and state program administrators. LIHEAP households will opt into community solar and consent to having their information shared with a community solar subscription manager and will then be connected to an available subscription. 

Getting Started

  • States must have the following in place to use the Connector: 
  1. A low-income community solar program that meets the minimum savings requirement of 20% (see above) and agrees to enforce minimum consumer protection requirements. 
  2. Partnership between the state community solar program and state LIHEAP agencies. 
  3. Low-income community solar projects looking for subscribers within the next year. 
  4. Staff capacity to test and provide feedback on the Connector during the pilot stage. 
  • To implement the Connector in a new state, DOE requests that both the agency administering the state community solar program and the state LIHEAP office jointly agree to participate in the project. DOE requires both offices to jointly sign an agreement to participate. 
  • DOE will also have states complete a State Readiness Assessment to identify additional needs a state may have to prepare to use the Connector, such as updating LIHEAP intake forms, updating LIHEAP or community solar program rules, and/or developing necessary training or education materials. 
  • If you are a representative of a state energy office or LIHEAP office and are interested in using the Connector in your state, please contact

On June 15, 2023, HHS published an informational memorandum on community solar and LIHEAP considerations. The purpose of the memorandum is to confirm for HHS grant recipients that LIHEAP funds can be used for solar energy use through new and existing electric payment mechanisms, such as community solar subscription fees, as well as to provide LIHEAP grant recipients with recommendations to consider when utilizing LIHEAP funds for community solar subscriptions. 

Additional Questions

The Connector currently only connects LIHEAP-eligible households with community solar subscriptions in Washington, D.C., New Mexico, and Illinois. The Connector could be expanded in the future to include additional income-verified programs and state markets. 

As of March 2024, NREL completed the development of the software, and three locations are currently piloting the software with community solar projects and LIHEAP households. The pilot stage will be a phased process through 2024 and into 2025. DOE aims to identify 3-5 additional states to join the pilot stage in mid-2024.  

DOE partnered with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide state-specific federal guidance to ensure that community solar does not impact utility allowances. Learn more on the DOE Community Solar and Low-Income Utility Allowances webpage