The National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) convened the Multifamily Affordable Housing (MFAH) Collaborative in 2020 with the aim of expanding access to solar energy for MFAH residents nationwide by working with providers to identify and overcome barriers to community solar deployment. Through technical assistance and peer engagement, Collaborative members and technical facilitators worked to explore various aspects of community solar development – from site prioritization to project models, financing, and asset management – to help accelerate deployment for this sector. Thirteen MFAH providers from across the U.S. – with portfolios ranging in size from five buildings to more than 300 – participated in the collaborative and received technical support from DOE, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Urban Ingenuity (UI), and Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF), referred to hereafter as ‘the project team’. The phase of active engagement for the MFAH Collaborative concluded in March 2022, culminating in the publication of resources based on the work of the Collaborative to support this sector more broadly.
In the U.S., approximately 60% of multifamily housing units are occupied by low- and moderate-income households (earning 80% or less of area median income). These units vary greatly in terms of ownership and financing structures (including different types of federally subsidized housing, as well as naturally occurring, non-subsidized housing) and billing structure (master- or multi-metered). This diversity in MFAH can impact the costs and energy burden (energy cost as a proportion of income) that residents face and the benefits they receive from on-site and off-site solar installations.
There are a variety of barriers to deploying solar on MFAH that make it challenging to carry out projects and pass benefits to residents. Barriers identified and addressed by the Collaborative included:
- Financing: Limited operating reserves of MFAH providers make it difficult to finance solar projects outside of already scheduled operation and maintenance investments.
- Split Incentives: Tenants may be responsible for paying electricity and other utility bills directly, so MFAH providers may lack the incentive to pursue capital-intensive upgrades.
- Tenant Benefits: MFAH providers may experience challenges communicating with and delivering direct and indirect benefits to MFAH tenants from solar initiatives.
- Capacity of MFAH Providers: MFAH providers may have limited internal expertise on solar project development or lack the time and resources to explore and implement solar projects.
Approach and Resources
To leverage the expertise and experience of participating organizations, the MFAH Collaborative facilitated five Peer Learning sessions, where members and external organizations presented on topics of interest. Through these sessions, Collaborative members had the opportunity to learn from and ask questions of peer organizations, and problem-solve in real time. Peer exchange topics included:
- Subscriber Enrollment
- Utility Engagement
- Solar Asset Management
- Financing for Portfolio-Scale Solar Development
- Low-income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) and Solar
In response to barriers to solar deployment identified by Collaborative members, the project team conducted four Technical Webinars, where subject-matter experts presented on topics such as financing, portfolio screening, and tenant benefits. Recordings of these sessions are available on the NREL Learning channel in the National Community Solar Partnership playlist on YouTube and are individually linked below.
|Technical Webinar Topic||Date|
|Financing Solar: Understanding LIHTC Opportunities||October 2020|
|Portfolio Screening Analysis and Tools||March 2021|
|Balancing the Benefits of Community Solar in Multifamily Housing (a session of the DOE Better Buildings Summit)||May 2021|
|Solar and Storage in MFAH||December 2021|
Five overarching resources were developed by the project team based on the learnings and best practices identified through peer exchange, technical webinars, and direct technical assistance delivered through the Collaborative. These resources aim to address barriers to solar deployment identified throughout engagement with the Collaborative. These resources help MFAH providers understand and address the most significant barriers to MFAH solar deployment as they pursue their renewable energy goals.
To support MFAH providers in their efforts to accelerate deployment of community solar, NCSP convened a group of MFAH providers from across the United States to understand and address barriers. Project partners including NREL, Urban Ingenuity, and SAHF facilitated peer exchange, provided technical assistance, and developed resources to support the sector more broadly. On August 25, 2022, they held a webinar to explore these resources. Watch a recording of this webinar and download the slide deck.
Portfolio Screening Package
- Fact Sheet and Case Study: Presents a framework for MFAH housing providers to evaluate their multi-state building portfolios for community solar project viability.
- Portfolio Screening Workbook: Excel-based tool to help housing providers think through state-level policy landscapes as they relate to MFAH community solar development. This workbook also walks through the steps necessary for MFAH building owners to assess their portfolios for enabling policy landscapes.
- Techno-economic Analysis using REopt: Presentation on how MFAH housing providers can use REopt to assess the techno-economic potential of their portfolio as part of the portfolio screening process.
Portfolio Modeling Tool and User Guide
Excel-based tool designed to provide MFAH providers and other users with a preliminary understanding of project economics for a portfolio of small and medium-sized commercial solar installations.
Community Solar Project Models for MFAH
Issue brief that summarizes the current MFAH market and challenges to community solar adoption and ends with a discussion of four community solar models that address solar adoption and barriers faced by MFAH providers and households.
Community Solar and HUD Subsidized Housing
Overview of community solar and HUD utility allowances, including HUD solar potential data and methodology.
Tips for Resident Engagement
Provides tips for increasing the number of multifamily residents subscribing to programs that issue direct bill credits.
How to Use These Resources
Expand the questions below to learn more about resources that address how to advance to the next stage of community solar deployment for MFAH.