Specialists advocate automated enrollment in neighborhood solar packages for LMI teams

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Vote Solar’s Access & Equity Advisory Committee (AEAC) today published a Policy Brief that provides solutions to barriers to implementing government solar programs in low- to middle-income communities. The AEAC is made up of energy managers from Vote Solar and a rotating list of partner organizations including GRID Alternatives, NAACP and Nexamp (see full list below).

The committee recommends two key initiatives for more successful solar expansion programs: (1) automatic enrollment in community solar programs, and (2) support for more robust community engagement.

“Implementing the solar program for LMI customers can be uneven and more complicated than necessary,” said Melanie Santiago-Mosier, General Manager of Access & Equity at Vote Solar. “Following these recommendations can streamline program implementation and ultimately ensure that the benefits of solar systems are more fairly shared.”

Auto-enrollment means that households eligible for low and middle income solar programs (LMI) are automatically enrolled in a solar program by qualifying for another government program such as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The AEAC found that one of the major obstacles to the implementation of solar programs by the LMI community is a cumbersome, lengthy, and often humiliating income verification process involving both the state and the solar provider. Streamlining this process is critical to attracting more families to community solar programs.

“We stand with Vote Solar and our colleagues, demanding that every clean energy transition focus on restorative justice first,” said Daphany Rose Sanchez of Kinetic Communities Consulting. “By moving the dial, streamlining resources and empowering local organizations to lead the energy transition, we can see BIPOC and other disinvested communities leading the charge.”

Local engagement in the community is required to build trust and address the specific needs of the community. Currently, most government programs use a provider that receives government funding to provide solar power to LMI communities only for solar projects and does not cover customer loyalty costs. State and federal funding programs should include specific allocations for public relations and education about LMI solar programs and approved providers so that providers can hire dedicated public relations workers, work with community organizations to build a customer acquisition pipeline, and effectively market their product.

“Policymakers and the solar industry need to think critically about such solutions to ensure that communities with low prosperity are not left behind in the transition to clean energy,” said Olivia Nedd, policy director of the Access & Equity program at Vote Solar. “Solar is a big part of that transition and AEAC hopes it can continue to share ways to ensure that a fair future of clean energy is achieved.”

Read the full report here.

Members of the Access & Equity Advisory Committee

Gary Skulnik, neighborhood sun
Yesenia Rivera, Solar United Neighbors
Beth Galante, PosiGen
Alexandra Wyatt, GRID Alternatives
Lynn Heller, Climate Fund
Denise Abdul-Rahman, NAACP
Daphany-Rose Sanchez, Consultation for Kinetic Communities
Zaid Ashai, Nexamp
Brandy Hyatt, Vote Solar
Melanie Santiago-Mosier, Vote Solar
Olivia Nedd, Vote Solar

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