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Energy task forces or sustainability committees keep residents and key stakeholders actively engaged in community energy policy and development. These working groups can also assist in leading community-based solar initiatives and provide guidance for communication and outreach strategies for solar initiatives to reach the entire community.
Resources and Examples:
Solar landing pages can serve as resources for both the public and solar installers on local solar markets and regulations. Some information communities have commonly included are information on local regulation, active area non-profits and information existing installed capacity.
Non-profit facilities, affordable housing developments and community centers can enable a diverse set of consumers to interact and directly and indirectly benefit from solar. Installations on non-profits have traditionally occurred at lower rates because these installations cannot take advantage of federal or state tax incentives. Local incentives can improve the feasibility of these installations.
Local governments can support or host community group purchase programs for solar energy. Bulk purchasing can reduce the costs of solar installations for community members. These limited time-offers have had consistent success in providing discounts of up to 20% of installed costs for residential systems.
Local governments can support or host community group purchase programs for solar energy. Bulk purchasing can reduce the costs of solar installations for community members. These limited time-offers have had consistent success in providing discounts of up to 20% of installed costs for residential systems. Creating income support, credit enhancement, adders to incentive programs for income-qualified participants, or other subsidy programs that enable low-to-moderate income residents to participate in these programs facilitates equity in the energy system. To encourage LMI uptake, financing options should focus on reducing upfront costs to LMI households. Particular attention should be paid to past group purchase program design and financing to develop an option that can meet the needs of LMI households.
Resources and Examples:
An engaged and informed community can encourage solar market growth and increase the likelihood that local homes and businesses will pursue solar and generate energy savings. In addition to conducting outreach, local governments can partner with local sustainability organizations, community development corporations, solar installers and other stakeholders to increase the impact of outreach programs.
Solar jobs have grown 12 times faster than the U.S. economy since 2014. Local governments can encourage community colleges or reach out to government training initiatives such as Solar Ready Vets to engage residents. As local solar markets grow, local governments can ensure community colleges are aware of job opportunities with local installers and solar industry stakeholders.
Solar energy development can revitalize otherwise vacant or under-utilized land and generate revenue for local governments. These can also serve as important educational and outreach sites for community schools. Some states and the Environmental Protection Agency have developed guidance documents and prioritized brownfield solar development.
Install or lease land for solar PV development on brownfields, landfills, formerly contaminated lands and/or other under-utilized properties.
Regional planning councils and other organizations can facilitate regional coordination on solar. These organizations can lead unified permitting or building code updates for PV across multiple jurisdictions or counties, and are also well-suited to foster bulk purchasing initiatives for municipal solar.
Local governments can provide an important voice into state-level renewable energy policy development, including Clean Power Plan implementation, renewable energy goals and incentives. Government staff can track policy developments actively and develop appropriate strategies to interact with state activity.
Solar maps are a resource which can provide residents with a rough feasibility assessment of solar on their rooftops. Maps can also show the locations of municipal solar installations and connect users with local installers.
Community solar offers groups of residential customers the ability to own or lease a portion of the project in exchange for economic benefits proportional to their share. These economic benefits are most commonly delivered in the form of electricity bill credits. It allows consumers to access solar without building panels on their home, opening small-scale PV to renters. They can be provided by utilities as well as third-party “special purpose entity” model or a non-profit model.
Community solar provides opportunities to open access to solar to low-to-moderate income households. To fully achieve this potential, a community program should design programs and financing to support low to moderate income participation, including savings from day one. It is also important to ensure that appropriate and trusted messengers are used and that offerings are designed to be flexible without long-term commitments. Opportunities for cross subsidization of community solar participants (e.g. voluntary higher payments by participants who can afford it) can enable lower costs for LMI participants).
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