Georgia rooftop solar program “levels the playing field” for low-income households

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Georgia has launched its Building Renewables & Investing for Green, Healthy, and Thriving Communities (BRIGHT) program, extending access to solar for residents that may not qualify for traditional financing.

Run by the Capital Good Fund, a nonprofit institution, the program is supported by a $1 million grant from the Arthur M. Blank foundation.

Under the program, customers are offered solar leases for no upfront cost, even for customers with credit scores too low for traditional solar financing. Capital Good Fund owns and maintains the solar installation over a 25-year lease term, with an option to buy the panels at year seven. The system is offered at 65% of the original price at that time.

The program ran a pilot project in September, signing up 200 households that make less than $100,000 per year across Georgia.

Program managers said the average family should expect about 20% savings per month on their electricity bills, or about $10,000 to $15,000.

About one-third of Georgians spend more than 10% of their monthly income on energy bills, a level that places them in “energy poverty.” The median household pays about 3% of their monthly income on power.

“If we can make cost-saving solar work for people in a state like Georgia, there is hope for households who need this type of relief across the South,” said Southern Environmental Law Center senior attorney Jennifer Whitfield.

Funding for low-income solar is on the rise in the United States, boosted by the $7 billion Solar for All program, contained within the Inflation Reduction Act. The program funds rooftop solar projects in lower income communities and provides solar workforce development. Solar for All grants are expected to be awarded this year.

“The Georgia BRIGHT program is just a preview of the transformative power of Solar for All grant funding,” said Whitfield. “We’ll be able to prove that solar is not only resilient and cost saving, but economically viable here in the South.”

Last July, first-stage grant applications were invited from states and other eligible entities for the $7 billion Solar for All program. States, territories, tribal governments, municipalities, and eligible nonprofits were invited to apply for a grant in an amount between $25 million and $400 million.

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