National Grid aims to expand community solar access for low-income customers


National Grid has filed a proposal to expand access to solar energy and provide annual bill discounts to up to 20,000 low-income customers in Massachusetts through Community Shared Solar projects.

Part of the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program, Community Shared Solar enables customers to lower their bills through local projects without having to install solar panels on their property.

Marcy Reed, president of National Grid in Massachusetts, said all customers should be able to share the benefits of distributed solar “no matter their income level.”

The utility’s proposed Solar Access Initiative, which is under review by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), aims to expand access by eliminating the need for customer credit checks through a new Solar Simplified Billing program.

According to National Grid, owners of many community solar projects screen applicants by using credit scores to reduce the risk of late payments. This can limit the pool of customers who qualify to participate. National Grid said Solar Simplified Billing would eliminate the need for credit checks by guaranteeing on-time payments to project owners.

The utility also said it would launch a Solar Enrollment Program, designed to offer low-income customers a month-to-month subscription, no sign-up or cancellation fees, and an electricity bill discount of around $240 per year.

If approved by the DPU, the initiative would go into effect in early 2022.

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