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The Mass Solar Loan program: Bringing solar ownership to low-income homeowners

The Mass Solar Loan program: Bringing solar ownership to low-income homeowners

The Mass Solar Loan Program, launched by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources in 2015, combines strategic incentives and partnerships with local banks and credit unions to increase access to solar PV financing, while creating a robust solar lending market.
Electricity More Costly to Consumers with Bad Credit

Electricity More Costly to Consumers with Bad Credit

It’s an unfortunate reality that once you find yourself in financial difficulty the effects of bad credit can snowball your financial hardship. Poor credit doesn’t just keep you from getting a loan. It often means you will pay more for everyday necessities such as insurance and utilities. Texas is a deregulated electricity market which means that in most parts of […]
Three Strategies for Low-Income Solar Programs

Three Strategies for Low-Income Solar Programs

The phrase ‘low-income’ rarely appears in solar energy press coverage in the United States. But some enterprising organizations have set their sights on expanding the market for residential solar photovoltaics to include low-to-moderate-income communities.
Solar for All: An Article of Faith – Local Energy Rules Podcast

Solar for All: An Article of Faith – Local Energy Rules Podcast

Minnesota’s community solar garden program may be the envy of the nation — once the utility’s stall tactics have been stopped — but it needs a little help to fulfill the vision of bringing solar to all. That’s where Julia Nerbonne, executive director of Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light, comes in. In June 2015, John Farrell talked to Nerbonne about opening up community solar for everyone -- not just for people with high credit scores -- and what people of faith can do about it. Podcast (Local Energy Rules): Play in new window | Download Subscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS Community Solar Comes to Minnesota Community solar can mean a variety of things. In its pure form, it would be a solar array owned by a collection of people who share its economic benefits. In practice, it’s usually a form of shared energy. “Subscribers” pay an upfront fee (often around $1,000), and receive a share of electricity production from the solar project every month over the next 20-25 years. That solar share produces power that is then credited on the subscriber’s electric bill, saving the customer money each month. After about ten years (it varies by project), the subscription fee is paid off, and what remains on the subscription is pure energy savings to the subscriber. In Minnesota, the community solar garden market exploded after the first rules were released in 2014, with more than one gigawatt of power entered into the queue. If every project were built, it could triple the utility’s expected solar power development by 2020. However, the incumbent electric utility, Xcel Energy, has stalled the program with several disputes over the rules and Minnesotans are still awaiting the first project installations. A Tool for All to Cut Their Electric Bill Community solar is more than just clean electric power. For faith communities, in particular, community solar symbolizes a nexus of economic justice and carbon mitigation. It’s an enormous opportunity to get everyone involved in clean energy. “Low income, high income, doesn’t matter,” says Nerbonne. “Everybody should have access to be able to start saving money on their electric bill.” Traditionally, community solar developers only targeted populations with good credit scores (above 700), cherry-picking those who are expected to make their payments. Nerbonne wants to challenge solar developers to use a pay-as-you-go process where anyone can participate, not where you have to be “accepted” or “declined.” Interfaith Power and Light and others have a couple ideas for how to make community solar accessible without significantly increasing financial risk for solar developers and their financiers. One is to pool subscribers, high and low income. Another option is to have a community backstop; for example, a church could guarantee the subscriptions of its members, agreeing to temporarily or permanently cover payments if a member fell on hard times.  Another model involves a loan loss reserve fund, tapped when a person defaults on their pay-as-you-go payments. The fund could come from community anchor institutions, places of worship, or philanthropic organizations. The key difference in Nerbonne’s approach is to distinguish between charity and creating an economic system for people. This is not giving away solar; it’s creating opportunity. Community Solar in Progress Already, Interfaith Power and Light is making progress. At the Shiloh Temple in Minneapolis, people from the community will be trained in to install the proposed community solar array. They plan to expand significantly. Nerbonne notes it’s all part of a wider battle to fight climate change. With community solar gardens in mind, she describes her “three-legged stool” theory. One leg is practical change that people see and feel on the ground; another leg is the political process, the rules and regulations that make it all go; and the last leg is spirit, what joins people together. Community solar gardens have those three legs, and with the built-in bond of faith-based communities, there is a great opportunity to build a movement that goes beyond the place of worship. More information about policy and practical approaches to community solar gardens can be found at ilsr.org, and more about MN Interfaith Power and Light’s efforts are at mnipl.org. This is the 26th edition of Local Energy Rules, an ILSR podcast with Director of Democratic Energy John Farrell that shares powerful stories of successful local renewable energy and exposes the policy and practical barriers to its expansion. Other than his immediate family, the audience is primarily researchers, grassroots organizers, and grasstops policy wonks who want vivid examples of how local renewable energy can power local economies. It is published twice monthly, on 1st and 3rd Thursday.  Click to subscribe to the podcast: iTunes or RSS/XML This article originally posted at ilsr.org. For timely updates, follow John Farrell on Twitter or get the Democratic Energy weekly update.
SolarCity Scores $500 Million from Goldman Sachs for Solar Leasing

SolarCity Scores $500 Million from Goldman Sachs for Solar Leasing

SolarCity Corp. (SCTY), a solar-energy developer chaired by billionaire Elon Musk, won financing from Goldman Sachs (GS) Group Inc. for more than $500 million in rooftop solar systems that the company will complete this year.
New report sheds light on residential solar adoption in terms of access and equity

New report sheds light on residential solar adoption in terms of access and equity

Solar-adopter incomes presently skew high in all states, but, as with the national trends, that skew has diminished over time in most states. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory released a report last week that highlights income, demographic, and other socio-economic trends among U.S. residential rooftop solar adopters. Galen Barbose, Sydney Forrester, Eric O’Shaughnessy, and Naïm Darghouth authored the report. The latest […]
Rooftop Solar Leases Scaring Buyers When Homeowners Sell

Rooftop Solar Leases Scaring Buyers When Homeowners Sell

Dorian Bishopp blames the solar panels on his roof for costing him almost 10 percent off the value of the home he sold in March.
Sunnova Offers Solar Ownership Program to US Residential Customers

Sunnova Offers Solar Ownership Program to US Residential Customers

Residential solar financing company Sunnova announced today that it is now offering what it calls an EZ Own program, which is like a cross between a solar loan and lease. Essentially, customers will be able to make monthly payments for their home solar system with no money down — all through Sunnova itself rather than a bank. Sunnova will also provide a service warranty package.
Could a Michigan green bank offer a blueprint for Biden’s green recovery?

Could a Michigan green bank offer a blueprint for Biden’s green recovery?

Michigan Saves is one of the oldest and most effective green bank programs in the country, drawing about $3 in private investment per every public dollar invested. As President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team prepares its green economic recovery plan, a Michigan clean energy finance program could provide a bipartisan model for how to spur energy savings and job growth. Biden […]
Two Ways PG&E Community Solar Gardens Enable 100 Percent Solar for All

Two Ways PG&E Community Solar Gardens Enable 100 Percent Solar for All

PG&E already has enough renewable energy contracts in its portfolio that its customers now get a quarter of their electricity from sources like solar and wind. (Large hydro is not included.)