New Hampshire seeks $70 million to expand low-income community solar

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The New Hampshire Department of Energy has submitted a request for a $70 million federal grant to expand community solar for low-income residents in the state, the Energy News Network reports..

The grant request was filed with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Solar For All competitive grant program. The program set aside $7 billion to increase solar access for people living in low-income communities across the U.S. Up to 60 grants will be rewarded under the program.

Community solar involves customers subscribing to a portion of an on-site or off-site solar facility’s generating capacity, receiving credit on their traditional utility bills for the electricity produced by the system. The Department of Energy said community solar customers can expect to see an average of 10% to 20% savings on their utility bill. It offers customers who do are not able to install solar on their rooftop another pathway toward adopting solar.

New Hampshire created regulatory pathways for community solar in 2013, but project size limits and limited economic viability have prevented the market from taking off, said Energy News Network. The Solar For All grant funds are expected to improve the economic benefits while assisting with customer acquisition.

Under the proposal, the program would fund a portion of the solar project if most of the power generated benefits low-income households. It would also set aside funds for the development of low-income housing, administered by New Hampshire Housing.

The grant proposal addresses an issue in solar adoption for renters called the “split incentive.” Landlords have little motivation to put up capital for solar panel installations if their tenants pay their own electricity bills. New Hampshire’s proposal would change this structure by having landlords take over tenant utility bills, roll the costs into rent, and make discounts for tenants based on the solar savings.

“The Solar for All proposal takes a huge step in moving things in a more positive direction,” Sam Evans-Brown, executive director of Clean Energy New Hampshire told Energy News Network. “It’s giving landlords a carrot to figure this out.”

EPA is expected to announce grant recipients in March 2024, with funds beginning to roll out in 2025.

This article was amended to add Energy News Network as the original source.

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