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New York solar in Brooklyn
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Working to Expand Low-Income Solar Access: New York

Solar is a great American success story, yet a majority of the country’s energy consumers – including renters, families and businesses in multi-unit buildings, and homeowners with shaded roofs – are unable to invest in their own rooftop solar energy systems. Low-income consumers face many of these physical barriers plus the additional challenge of lacking access to financing. These same families have the most to gain from participating in and saving from clean energy.

If states are looking to shared solar as a way to help disadvantaged communities plug into clean energy, their policies should contain specific provisions for overcoming the particular challenges that these communities face.  

That’s what a group of more than 55 organizations is working to accomplish in New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s has committed to expanding renewable energy access, and state regulators are now working to establish an innovative Shared Renewables program – which they’re calling Community Net Metering – to overcome traditional barriers to solar access. A well-designed Shared Renewables program would empower more low-income families and communities of color to participate in and benefit from New York's growing solar economy while speeding the transition to a sustainable and reliable energy system.

In order for the program to fully deliver on its clean-energy-for-all promise, the coalition recommends that low-income households should represent at least 20% of residential participants in the program. The groups recommended establishing policies and programs to meet this standard for low-income participation, including:

  1. Credit support for low- and moderate-income customers through the Green Bank or Clean Energy Fund;
  2. A program to develop a sustainable low-income market for shared renewable energy through pilot projects, technical assistance and effective and market adjusting incentives to encourage low-income participation; and,
  3. An option to allocate existing electricity assistance funds towards a shared renewable energy subscription.

Read those full recommendations here (PDF).