Homeowners across the country have typically participated in the solar market by installing solar directly on their property to meet a portion of their own energy needs. Coupling the core policies used to develop a strong rooftop solar market with specific provisions for ensuring low-income participation can effectively expand solar access among single-family homeowners. A low-income solar program for single-family homes provides significantly reduced- to no-cost solar electric systems to households that qualify as low-income. The definition of low-income varies by location but is typically defined as 80 percent of the area median income (AMI). The cost of the solar electric system is covered by a variety of sources, again based on location. Federal, state, and local incentives may be used to cover the cost, as well as philanthropic funds and equipment donations.
What makes these low-income single family solar policies successful? They all take advantage of net metering, have adequate dedicated funding sources, and incorporate some or all of the guiding principles of a low-income solar program laid out in Section I. In a snapshot:
- DC’s 2015 Solar Advantage Plus Program included a direct incentive ($2.50/watt rebate). At no upfront cost to the homeowners, the installations were financed using a combination of SRECs, federal tax incentives, local incentives, and contractor financing.
- CA’s SASH Program includes a direct incentive ($3.00/watt rebate); gap financing provided by the program administrator; and comprehensive programming (energy efficiency requirement and workforce development).
- CA’s GoSolarSF includes a direct incentive (residential incentive and supplemental low-income incentive).
- CA’s Richmond R3 Program included a direct incentive (state and local rebates) and indirect incentives.
- MA’s Solar Carve-Out II/SREC II includes a direct incentive (solar generation serving low-income customers eligible for the highest SREC multiplier available ).
- MA’s Solar Loan Program includes financing (cash-flow positive loans).
- NY’s Affordable Solar Program includes a direct incentive (low-to moderate-income customers receive double the residential rebate) and comprehensive programming (encourages workforce development).
- NY’s NY-Sun Incentive Program includes financing (provides a low-interest loan to pay for solar installations for low-income customers) and comprehensive programming (encourages workforce development).