Administration Announces 68 Cities, States, and Businesses Are Working Together to Increase Access to Solar for All Americans

Including Commitments to Scale Up Solar Access and Decrease Energy Bills in the Nearly 50 Percent of Households and Business that Cannot Install Solar Systems

WASHINGTON, D.C. – November 18, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — The Obama Administration is committed to addressing climate change, promoting clean energy, and creating good paying jobs.  That is why, at a National Community Solar Summit at the White House today, the Administration is announcing 68 cities, states, and businesses are joining together to promote community solar, with an emphasis on scaling up solar for low- and moderate- income households. Community solar allows multiple households and businesses to pool their resources and invest in shared solar systems to save on their energy bills. Today, private sector organizations are building on the initial commitments announced in July, bringing the total number of pledges to advance community solar and scale up solar and for low- and moderate- income households to more than 20,000 households and $545 million across 21states.

Actions like the ones announced today, will help the U.S. transition to cleaner sources of energy faster and ensure the opportunity to access clean energy is available to those who need it most, putting the U.S. on a strong playing field to secure an ambitious climate agreement in Paris.

Since President Obama took office, the amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased nearly twenty fold. Since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of a solar electric system has dropped by 50 percent. However, nearly 50 percent of American households and businesses are renters or lack the capital and adequate roof space to install solar systems.

Community solar has the potential to unlock economic growth across the United States while providing clean solar power to historically underserved communities and allowing them to benefit from the falling costs and increased deployment of solar. Low-income households, which spend four times greater proportion of their income on energy than the national median, can see significant benefits from community solar. Access to solar power could substantially reduce the energy burden of low-income households by providing stable electricity prices below local utility rates.

STATE, LOCAL, AND PRIVATE SECTOR COMMITMENTS

TO INCREASE ACCESS TO SOLAR ANNOUNCED TODAY

Scaling Up National Community Solar Partnership Members: To unlock access to solar power for these Americans, in July the Administration launched the National Community Solar Partnership. The partnership is a collaboration between the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), representatives from solar companies, NGOs, and state and local community leaders. The members work together to leverage the interest in the public and private sector to expand access to community solar, with an emphasis on low- and moderate- income households, while utilizing the technical expertise of DOE and its national laboratories. This includes working on greater utilization of existing federal and state resources, sharing of best practices at the state level, development of new financing arrangements and business models, new approaches to customer acquisition and community building, and multifamily deployment considerations. Today, we are announcing that, since July, more than 40 companies, organizations and universities have joined the effort to increase access to community solar, nearly tripling the number of partners to 68:

  • 3Degrees – San Francisco, CA
  • Amazon – Seattle, WA
  • Arcadia Power – Washington, DC
  • BARC Electric Cooperative – Millboro, VA
  • Black Rock Solar – San Francisco, CA
  • Bishop Paiute Tribe – Bishop, CA
  • BlueWave Capital – Boston, MA
  • Citi – New York, NY
  • Clean Energy Collective – Louisville, CO
  • Clean Energy Solutions – Boston, MA
  • Colorado State Energy Office – Denver, CO
  • Community Energy, Inc. – Radnor, PA
  • Connecticut Green Bank – Rocky Hill, CT
  • Cook County Department of Environmental Control – Chicago, IL
  • District of Columbia Department of the Environment – Washington, DC
  • Ecolibrium3 – Duluth, MN
  • Elevate Energy – Chicago, IL
  • Everyday Energy – Carlsbad, CA
  • First Solar, Inc. – Tempe, AZ
  • Fresh Energy – St. Paul, MN
  • Global Green USA – Santa Monica, CA
  • Grand Valley Power – Grand Junction, CO
  • Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance – Cincinnati, OH
  • GRID Alternatives – Oakland, CA
  • Groundswell – Brooklyn, NY
  • Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism – Honolulu, HI
  • Inovus Solar – Boise, ID
  • Institute for Sustainable Communities – Montpelier, VT
  • Interstate Renewable Energy Council – Latham, NY
  • Massachusetts Clean Energy Center – Boston, MA
  • Massachusetts, Dept. of Energy Resources – Boston, MA
  • Meister Consultants Group – Boston, MA
  • National League of Cities – Washington, DC
  • Next Step Living – Boston, MA
  • Northwest SEED – Seattle, WA
  • Pedernales Electric Cooperative – Johnson City, TX
  • Pfister Energy of Baltimore – Baltimore, MD
  • Posigen – New Orleans, LA
  • Razor Sharp Solar – Littleton, CO
  • RE–volv – San Francisco, CA
  • Rocky Mountain Institute – Boulder, CO
  • RREAL – Pine River, MN
  • Sacramento Municipal Utility District, – Sacramento, California
  • State of California
  • State of New York
  • Solar Energy Industries Association – Washington, DC
  • Solar Electric Power Association – Washington, DC
  • Solar Gardens Institute – Westminster, CO
  • Solar One – New York, NY
  • SolarCity – San Mateo, CA
  • Solstice Initiative – Boston, MA
  • Spear Point Energy – Aspen, CO
  • SunShare – Denver, CO
  • Sustainable Capital Advisors – Washington, DC
  • Tucson Electric Power – Tucson, AZ
  • TegDB – Richmond, TX
  • The Solar Foundation – Washington, DC
  • University of Houston – Houston, TX
  • University of Maine – Orono, ME
  • University of Minnesota – Minneapolis, MN
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • U.S. Department of Energy
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Vermont Energy Investment Corporation – Burlington, VT
  • Vermont Public Service Department – Montpelier, VT
  • West Monroe Partners – Chicago, IL
  • Vote Solar – Washington, DC

Private Sector Companies Announcing Commitments to Increase Financing for and Deployment of Community Solar Across the Country: Today, private sector organizations are building on the initial commitments announced in July, bringing the total number of pledges to advance community solar and scale up solar and for low- and moderate- income households to more than 20,000 households and $545 million across 21 states.

  • Clean Energy Collective (CEC) is announcing that it has developed the first program that allows investor-owned utilities to own and rate-base community arrays without non-participant subsidization or upward pressure on rates. This program builds upon its industry-leading efforts to partner with utilities in implementing community solar programs. Prompted by New York’s newly enacted shared renewables program, CEC is bringing community solar to New York, empowering residential and business consumers to tap the financial and environmental benefits of local shared renewable energy generation—regardless of income level, home or business location, or property ownership. Development is already underway on more than a dozen project sites from the five boroughs of New York City to upstate.
  • Groundswell is committing to convene five community solar projects that will serve low- and moderate-income communities in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast over the next 18 months. This builds on Groundswell’s seven years of experience educating, engaging, and organizing economically diverse households and small businesses to switch to affordable renewable energy. These projects will make solar available to the nearly 50 percent of customers who currently cannot access it, while also delivering more distributed generation capacity that promotes reliability, resiliency, and sustainability across the power grid.
  • First Solar, Inc. and Clean Energy Collective, LLC (CEC) are announcing today that they are partnering on  an initial four community solar projects that will serve customers of Black Hills Energy (Pueblo, CO), CPS Energy (San Antonio, TX), Nueces Electric Cooperative (Corpus Christi, TX), and Holy Cross Energy (Rifle, CO). Combined, these projects introduce the concept of community solar to nearly one million potential residential users, many of whom would not be able to install solar on their own homes.
  • RE-volv is announcing today the launch of a crowdfunding platform in early 2016 to finance solar energy systems for nonprofits and cooperatives. RE-volv recently won support from the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative Catalyst program to develop the platform. This will allow them to build a revolving fund that will finance 200 community-based solar projects across the country over the next three years.
  • Sustainable Capital Advisors is committing to deploy $25 million of private capital in order to finance community solar projects serving low- and moderate-income communities throughout the U.S. over the next 18 months. The project will focus harnessing the collective financial strength of diverse communities through aggregation and other pooling mechanisms.
  • Solstice Initiative committing to deploy community solar to 1,000 Massachusetts households over the next year. This commitment builds on the Solstice Initiative’s ongoing Massachusetts pilots, which transform local organizations such as churches and workplaces into solar hubs, and which has already enrolled members in 1.5 megawatts of community solar.
  • RREAL is committing to deploy 450 kilowatts (kW) of community shared solar for low-income households in Minnesota over the next 18 months. One of these community shared solar systems will be sited on tribal land. This commitment builds on the company’s success in community and low-income solar, having installed solar electric and solar thermal systems benefiting over 430 low-income households to date.
  • Bath, Alleghany and Rockbridge Counties (BARC) Electric Cooperative is announcing that they are moving forward on building of their 500 kW of community solar facility, the first community solar installation in Virginia.
  • Everyday Energy is committing to deploy 28 megawatts (MW) of shared solar PV to multi-family affordable housing properties throughout California over the next 12 months, utilizing virtual net metering that primarily benefits low-income renters.
  • Vermont Energy Investment Corporation is announcing today a new commitment to deploy three or more community solar systems in Vermont over the next three years. This commitment builds on the launch of a new business subsidiary, Sun Shares LLC, which is aimed at using the innovative design strategies of community solar brought to the employer/employee benefit sector.
  • Next Step Living is committing to generate at least 20,000 reservations for community solar arrays over the next 12 months. This commitment builds on successfully securing nearly 11,000 reservations to date.

BUILDING ON EXISTING INITIATIVES AND RESEARCH

The National Community Solar Partnership was formed in response to the research of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL’s) 2012 Guide to Community Shared Solar, which provides a framework for the development of this model for solar deployment in communities. The SunShot Initiative is also seeking applications for the next round of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants, which includes community solar. In addition, the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative is helping local governments and utilities create community solar programs through the following initiatives:

  • Solar Powering America by Recognizing Communities (SPARC)is establishing a national recognition and technical assistance program for local governments to make their communities more solar-friendly and ignite local solar markets. The SPARC designation will spur communities across the country to earn recognition for achievements that distinguish them from their peers as they eliminate market barriers and reduce soft costs.
  • SunShot Incubator program provides early-stage assistance to help startup companies cross technological barriers to commercialization while encouraging private sector investment. Three recent projects, from the Clean Energy Collective, Sunvestment Group, and Village Power Finance, are tackling the technological barriers of managing community solar projects.
  • Solar Market Pathways program supports 15 SunShot projects that are advancing solar deployment across the United States. These projects take a variety of approaches to develop actionable strategic plans to expand solar electricity use for residential, community, and commercial properties. Seven projects are currently developing best practices and toolkits for launching community solar projects across the country.
  • SunShot Catalyst Energy Innovation Prize is an open innovation prize challenge that aims to catalyze the rapid creation and development of products and solutions that address near-term challenges in the U.S. solar marketplace. The current prize cycle features two companies, SunSwarm and MapMySolar, which are building prototype systems to make it easier and faster to deploy community solar.
  • Solar Utility Networks: Replicable Innovations in Solar Energy (SUNRISE) program is helping utilities develop adaptable and replicable practices, long-term strategic plans, and technical solutions to sustain reliable operations with large proportions of solar power on the grid.
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