The National Community Solar Partnership provides resources, technical assistance, and peer networking opportunities to its partners to help them overcome these persistent barriers to expanding community solar access, with a focus on those in disadvantaged communities. The Partnership has developed a set of initiatives, outlined below, that follow a Pathway to Success in order to reach its target metrics.
The National Community Solar Partnership is increasing its investment in technical expertise and capacity building to accelerate community solar development that provides meaningful benefits for subscribers such as reduced energy bills, increased resilience, and workforce development. Technical assistance is provided on a rolling basis to any organization or individual that has registered as a partner.
Currently, there is no federal legislation to support community solar. Instead, states can choose to develop and administer their own community solar policies and programs. While 22 states and the District of Columbia have enabled community solar through mandates, enabling legislation or incentives, expansion of existing programs or development of new programs could have a dramatic impact on access to community solar. In February 2022, the National Community Solar Partnership launched a States Collaborative to engage, convene, and support states to unlock state-level barriers to community solar deployment. Currently, 17 states and territories officially joined the Collaborative, with an additional 15 states and territories also participating.
Equitable access to project funding is one of the most persistent barriers to community solar development. To get smaller community solar projects deployed, especially in underserved communities, developers need expertise, capacity, and access to predevelopment funds to prepare materials for funding applications. The Community Power Accelerator (formerly known as the Credit-Ready Solar Initiative) provides the resources and network of lending institutions, philanthropic organizations, and community solar developers to support a more efficient and equitable distribution of the capital needed to develop community solar that delivers meaningful benefits to subscribers and their communities. The Community Power Accelerator Learning Lab will also help small developers and those new to community solar gain a deep understanding of project development and operations, with a particular focus on project funding.
There are significant costs to developers associated with customer acquisition and management of low- to moderate-income community solar subscribers, which can impact the household savings passed to subscribers. The National Community Solar Partnership, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is developing a tool that will connect recipients of federally-managed, low-income energy programs with available community solar subscriptions that have strong consumer protections and verified savings. This tool can both increase household savings and access for program participants and make it easier for developers to connect with potential subscribers.
Broad awareness and understanding of community solar and its benefits remain limited. It can be challenging for state leaders, utilities, and developers to communicate and navigate the wide range of community solar business models and program benefits. This challenge can be exacerbated in communities with histories of predatory energy providers. The National Community Solar Partnership is supporting a community solar promotion initiative to elevate and amplify market influencers, highlight the meaningful benefits of equitable community solar, and recognize community solar products that provide benefits in line with program targets and the Justice40 initiative.