The District of Columbia Solar for All program was selected as a Grand Prize winner for the Sunny Awards for Equitable Community Solar, an initiative of the National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP).
NCSP, a program of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO), supports a coalition of stakeholders working to expand access to affordable community solar to every U.S. household and enable communities to realize meaningful benefits, such as greater household savings, low- to moderate-income (LMI) household access, increased resilience, community ownership, and equitable workforce development. NCSP is working toward a 2025 target to enable community solar to power the equivalent of 5 million households and generate a cumulative $1 billion in energy bill savings.
The Sunny Awards were launched in 2022 to recognize community solar projects and programs that employ best practices to increase equitable access to the meaningful benefits of community solar for subscribers and their communities. Meaningful benefits are key outcomes of community solar development identified by the NCSP. These community solar benefits bring positive impacts to the households, organizations, and the surrounding communities where the projects are developed and operate.
- Project Name: District of Columbia's Solar for All
- Location: Washington, DC
- Program Size: 30 MW
- Project Subscribers: 100% residential
- Year Opened: 2016
- Lead Organization: District of Columbia Department of Energy and Environment
- Partner Organizations: District of Columbia Sustainable Energy Utility, Groundswell
- Business Model: N/A
- State Incentives Leveraged: N/A
- Bill savings: 50%
- LMI access: 100%
Meaningful Benefits Best Practices
The District of Columbia's (DC) Solar for All program was implemented with the goal of reducing electricity bills by about 50% for 100,000 low- to moderate (LMI) income households in D.C. by 2032. The program currently includes over 160 community renewable energy facilities that serve more than 6,000 LMI households. The program provides no-cost community solar subscriptions to exclusively LMI households, with each subscription sized so that the resulting community net metering credits offset about 50% of the subscriber’s electric utility bills, which averages about $520 in savings per year for subscribers. All participants must demonstrate their household income is at or below 80% of the area median income (AMI) based on household size.
The DC Solar for All program supports the development of these projects by providing a capacity-based incentive capped at $1.25/Watt of direct current capacity. Incentive rates are determined during the annual RFP process, where each bidder proposes the rate at which they are offering to include each project in the program. This incentive, coupled with federal tax benefits and Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs), covers the cost of developing, constructing, operating, and maintaining each project.
DC Solar for All prioritizes community engagement by partnering with Groundswell, a DC-based solar energy non-profit, which leads in-person educational and informational events throughout the District. Many of the Solar for All community solar projects are built in community-centric locations like churches and multi-family housing buildings to further engage and empower DC communities. DC Solar For All also partners with the DC Sustainable Energy Utility on a workforce development program that helps to connect DC residents with a 5-month paid green externship with local contractors, businesses, municipal agencies, and other organizations in the green economy. The program provides job skills development, on-the-job training, OSHA training, certifications, direct work experience with mentors, and job placement assistance.