The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) will partner with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop and pilot a digital tool that will identify and make community solar with verified savings more accessible to households participating in government-run low-income support programs. The tool is initially intended only for Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) recipients. LIHEAP is an HHS program that assists eligible low-income households with home energy costs.
The partnership will support the NCSP target to enable community solar systems to power the equivalent of 5 million households and create $1 billion in energy bill savings by 2025. This represents one of the five National Community Solar Partnership initiatives on its Pathway to Success.
The project will be run by a collaborative team from NCSP, HHS, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the National Association of State Energy Officials, and the National Energy Assistance Directors Association. The team will coordinate with utilities, state and local governments, and industry to develop the project structure. Connecting LIHEAP recipients with low-income-focused community solar subscriptions through this tool will reduce the cost of customer acquisition, reduce low-income household energy bills, and increase the deployment of community solar projects.
On July 27, 2022, DOE and HHS announced the pilot development of the tool. Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. will support the development of the tool by providing feedback, coordination, and data to advance its capabilities so that it can be used nationwide.
The initial pilot development stage is expected to take approximately one year, with limited customer participation. In later stages of the pilot, the project team anticipates that LIHEAP customers in the pilot states will be able to indicate interest in community solar subscriptions.
As the tool is designed and implemented, the project team is partnering with additional organizations to support stakeholder outreach and engagement and project design and implementation. Organizations partnering on the project include the American Public Power Association, the Edison Electric Institute, the National Community Action Partnership, the National Consumer Law Center, the National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and Stewards for Affordable Housing for the Future.
DOE also issued a request for information to obtain feedback on the structure of the tool 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 partnership will address barriers to community solar adoption by low-income households and enable equitable access to community solar benefits by:
- Reducing customer acquisition and management costs of low-income subscribers for community solar system developers and managers by connecting them to pre-qualified applicants through LIHEAP.
- Lowering electricity bills and high energy burdens for LIHEAP-eligible households over the long-term through enrollment in community solar subscriptions.
- Building investor confidence in low-income community solar programs by minimizing the perceived risk of low-income subscribers.
- Expanding the community solar market to reach its multi-gigawatt potential, speeding clean energy deployment.
- Creating clean energy jobs in solar system project development and operations and maintenance.
Expanding community solar to all LIHEAP recipients could lead to gigawatts of new community solar deployment, increased access for low-income households, and billions in energy savings.
NCSP is an active group of community members, developers, utilities, financial institutions, and governments dedicated to increasing access to community solar for all U.S. households. Partners receive access to technical assistance, resources, training, events, and a platform for connecting with other collaborative partners. Register on our Mobilize website to join the partnership today!