What is Innovative and Equitable Solar Financing and Philanthropy?

Innovative and equitable solar financing and philanthropy focuses on expanding access to solar energy for residents, businesses, and communities by increasing solar affordability. Access to financing can often prove a barrier to benefiting from solar energy technologies. Equitable financing and philanthropy can provide pathways for historically underserved communities to access rooftop and community solar technologies. Equitable finance can also encourage Women-Owned or Minority-Owned Business Enterprise (WMBE) lending institutions to lead on equitable finance solutions.

Why Innovative and Equitable Solar Financing and Philanthropy important?

Solar installation rates have soared across the nation for the last 10 years. However, many households, businesses, and communities lack access to financing for solar systems.

Solar energy can help to reduce a household’s energy burden (i.e., the percentage of income a household spends on energy bills), which is especially important for low- to moderate-income households who experience disproportionally higher energy burdens than the average household. Even though these households need more support to decrease their high energy burdens, only 15% of solar adopters are considered low- to moderate-income households due to barriers in ownership, financing, and information access.

In order to meet national solar deployment goals, equitable solar access needs to be expanded to communities who have been historically excluded from the benefits of solar energy resources. DOE’s research in innovative and equitable solar financing and philanthropy seeks to allow for new participation pathways for those who have been historically excluded from the solar energy market.

SETO Research in Innovative and Equitable Solar Financing and Philanthropy

SETO-funded projects develop solutions to barriers faced by low-to-moderate income communities and communities of color, such as discriminatory lending, creditworthiness and information asymmetry issues, limited financing options, lack of access to the Federal Investment Tax Credit and other incentives, as well as solutions such as the deployment of new risk-mitigation techniques.

 An example of one of these tools is the Community Solar Business Case Tool developed through a SETO-funded project with Elevate Energy, which provides community solar developers a resource for financing models and tools. The Multifamily Affordable Housing Collaborative, an effort of the National Community Solar Partnership, developed this tool to increase solar access for residents of multifamily affordable housing and to generate new community solar business models.

Additional Resources

Learn more about SETO's equitable access to solar energy research, other solar energy research in SETO, and current and former SETO funding programs.