According to a May 2022 article in the Washington Post, some parts of the country saw their electricity bill increased 40% for two months.

Rising costs – and increasing pressures placed on Americans’ bank accounts – have many looking for greener solutions to cut electricity costs, such as solar panels. However, for low-income families who would benefit most from renewable energy, solar panels remain a distant idea.

Fortunately, solar programs for low-income communities are on the rise in the US, with some states making it possible for low-income households to reap the rewards at a fraction of the cost.

Are These Programs Free for Low-Income Communities?

A 2020 report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) highlights the financial constraints associated with electricity in low-income communities. According to its findings, two-thirds of low-income US households spend more than 6% of their income on utilities, while two out of five spend more than 10%.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines “low-income” as households that meet federal indicators below 80% of the poverty line of the median income in an area.

In general, low-income solar programs do not provide free solar panels but aim to provide them with a lower or eliminated upfront payment. Rebates and grants often offset installation costs, while homeowners may have to cover ongoing costs.

Some programs, such as Hawaii’s Green Energy Money $aver (GEM$) On-Bill Program, allow customers to install solar panels with no upfront fees and pay the costs through their monthly bill. utility bills over time. The program doesn’t just target low-income homeowners, though — Hawaii allows 95% of its population to opt into GEM$.

Although solar panel systems are not free in every program, low-income homeowners have a better chance of participating.

3 US Solar Programs Targeting Low-Income Households

Low-income Americans need a lot of help when it comes to covering their utilities. As more and more US states develop programs to provide clean, affordable energy to underserved and struggling communities, these three solar initiatives can serve as models for future efforts.

  1. Connecticut Green Bank Low-Income Residential Solar Incentive Program

The Connecticut Green Bank Low-Income Residential Solar Incentive Program (RSIP) runs from 2015 to 2021 and is aimed at helping low-income homeowners lease rooftop solar panels without an initial down payment. which is paid.

The RSIP is funded by the sale of solar home renewable energy credits, where the state pays an incentive to PosiGen for power generation to offset the cost of the lease terms.

The Connecticut Green Bank’s partnership with PosiGen has been a great success, with 4,400 households renting solar panels throughout the duration of the program, of which 60% fall 100% below the area’s median income. In total, the projects totaled 29 megawatts of new solar capacity.

Leasing solar panels has many advantages over buying, even if you are classified as low income. For example, leasing helps reduce your energy bills from the start, while you have to pay the initial investment in your system when you buy it.

  1. California Single-Family Affordable Homes Program (SASH)

The California Single-Family Affordable Homes Program (SASH) subsidizes solar panel systems for $3 per kilowatt. The State of California Public Utilities Commission outlines SASH Qualifications as follows:

  • Households must receive service from one of California’s three main electric companies: Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE).

  • Participants must own and live in their homes.

  • Participants must meet a federal threshold of 80% below the area median income and live in what the state defines as “affordable housing.”

GRID Alternatives currently runs the program — a nonprofit that has helped families save more than $100 million in energy costs since 2004 while preventing 315,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

  1. Washington DC Solar for All Programs

In partnership with many organizations throughout the Washington DC Metro, the DC Department of Energy and Environment is looking to help 100,000 low-income families save 50% on their electricity bills for the next 15 years.

Solar for All Program participants must earn at or below 80% of the area median income for eligibility. As with Connecticut’s RSIP initiative, homeowners rent the system free of charge.

Thanks to programs like Solar for All, DC surpassed its goal of getting 2.5% of its electricity from solar by 2021 — the city’s utilities must get 100% of its electricity from renewables by 2023, where 5% should be solar power.

Clean, Affordable Electricity Should Be For All

Access to a clean, affordable source of energy is not necessarily for the lucky few who can afford it. Regardless of age, gender, race or class, everyone deserves the same opportunity to invest in their future and reap the rewards from the changes.

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