Making Solar Energy More Accessible to Lower Income Americans

One of the GW Solar Institute's major focus areas is researching and offering solutions to the challenges of creating public programs and policies that spur the installation of solar systems on low-income households.

While residential solar installations are booming, most are being installed on relatively higher income households, depriving less affluent Americans the benefits of solar energy. Some stakeholders have raised concerns that solar related incentives disproportionally benefit higher income households and that this trend unfairly burdens lower income ratepayers with the costs of maintaining the grid. Mainstreaming solar energy beyond early adopters will require the adoption of more inclusive policies, programs, and financing options, as well as more targeted education and marketing.  

The GW Solar Institute continues to focus on these issues, building upon a Roundtable on low-income solar in Washington, DC that it hosted with DC Solar United Neighborhoods (DC SUN) in April 2014. Following the Roundtable, the Institute and DC SUN sent a whitepaper to Washington DC Mayor Gray, DC Council Members, and the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) with the consensus recommendations on how to accelerate the deployment of solar energy to address energy affordability and generate wealth within local low-income communities. The whitepaper specifically recommended creating a private-sector administered loan guarantee program that would enhance credit and unlock capital in addition to providing direct incentives for low-income households to participate in community solar projects. These recommendations reflect the views of the 70 Roundtable stakeholders from the low-income housing community, the solar industry, advocacy groups, and officials from the DC and federal government.  

This fall the GW Solar Institute revisited these ideas from a national perspective. On September 23, 2014, our annual Solar Symposium brought together policymakers from industry, government, and academia to discuss the best ways to enable the solar market to reach every American through creative incentive and financing solutions, eliminating legal and regulatory barriers, and integrating solar investments into existing federal low-income programs like LIHEAP, the Weatherization program, and community reinvestment grants.

We look forward to working with many community, industry, and government leaders to identify and implement initiatives that can help achieve solar affordability for all Americans.