In the past few years, we have all been hearing talks of nationwide clean energy initiatives and infrastructure programs funded by the federal government. And it seems like now, these funds are finally becoming available to states and organizations to roll out programs to distribute resources, loans and rebates to the population.

But how can grantees efficiently and quickly disburse these funds properly, ensuring the program reaches its objectives? In this post you’ll find out how the Solar for All program works, what it’s intended to accomplish, and how you can make the best of these funds to help your community.

What is the Solar for All Program?

In April 2024, the Biden-Harris administration announced a new EPA program as part of the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund under the Inflation Reduction Act. This new program aims to promote clean energy adoption, reduce energy costs, and address environmental justice concerns by ensuring that solar benefits reach underserved populations.

As for now, $7 billion have been allocated to expand access to solar energy for low-income households across the United States. Through the program, 60 subrecipients will develop or enhance solar programs, enabling over 900,000 households to benefit from distributed solar energy.

The 60 selected applications include 49 state-level awards, six awards to Tribes, and five multistate awards. You can read the full list of grantees here.

Potential Effects of Solar for All

A recent study by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) found that to meet U.S. climate goals—halving heat-trapping emissions by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050—distributed solar capacity must increase from 33 GW in 2021 to 134 GW by 2035, and to 225 GW by 2050. UCS estimates that at least 25 GW of solar could be installed on 3.6 million low-income and disadvantaged households by 2035, thanks to the Solar for All (SFA) program and other incentives provided by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

What is the difference between Solar for All (SFA) and Home Energy Rebates (HER & HEAR)?

The Solar for All and Home Energy Rebate Programs are both funded by the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, but they differ in scope, target audience, and the methods of administration. Solar for All is dedicated to bringing solar energy access to low-income and disadvantaged communities, using $7 billion from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and managed by the EPA.

On the other hand, Home Energy Rebates aim to help a broader range of low- and middle-income homeowners with various energy-efficient home upgrades, supported by $9 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act and overseen by the Department of Energy. While Solar for All focuses on solar initiatives, Home Energy Rebates cover multiple types of energy-efficient improvements including heat pumps, stoves, breaker boxes/electric panels, electric wiring, insulation, ventilation and more.

How to Design an Effective Solar for All Program

There are some states that already have programs in place that are similar to Solar for All. For these states, like in the state of New York, the new funds will be used to enhance their existing solar program, including initiatives for solar panels, technical assistance, and workforce development benefiting millions of residents in disadvantaged and low-income communities. NYSERDA will also launch new programs to remove barriers to installing solar panels for these households. Other states with existing solar programs include California, Colorado, Connecticut, and D.C.

But states/organizations that don’t have a solar program in place will need to start from scratch. So, when beginning the process of designing a solar program, states should consider best practices to increase access and equity:

  • Identify the Audience: recommends using the DoE’s Disadvantaged Communities Reporter to explore disadvantaged communities (DAC) that have been identified as part of DOE’s Justice40 program.
  • Create a Friendly Customer Experience: States should prioritize informing the public through a community-based marketing campaign to both build trust and raise awareness. Funds should be disbursed as quickly as possible once solar has been installed so customers begin saving immediately.
  • Consider Ownership Models: Community-owned solar allows customers, businesses, and nonprofits to partake in the benefits of solar collectively through tax benefits. The Community-Owned Community Solar Opportunities and Challenges report identifies key concepts, lessons, and questions through an examination of existing community-owned solar projects.
  • Financial Strategies: The Inclusive Solar Finance Framework identifies barriers limiting low-income or low-credit customers’ access to solar products and suggests market and policy interventions. Reports from NASEO and EESI provide guidance on billing models, on-bill financing, and other financial strategies to enhance solar accessibility.
  • Marketing, Outreach, and Engagement: Programs like GRID Alternatives in California exemplify a comprehensive marketing and outreach strategy, serving as a valuable model for others.
  • Protecting the Consumer: Ensuring program participants are not taken advantage of is also important, read guides from the Clean Energy States Alliance and the Solar Energy Industries Association for more information.
  • Workforce Development: The solar workforce will need to grow for the long-term success of solar programs. Reports like Advancing Inclusion Through Clean Energy provide insights into solar workforce development.

By following these best practices, states can design and implement effective solar programs that promote equity and provide tangible benefits to low-income and disadvantaged communities.

Why Neighborly Software?

Neighborly Software provides the only multi-stakeholder system of record in the market for Solar for All. Our platform combines Grant Management, Case Management, Loan Processing, Contractor Management, and Reports & Analytics into a single solution, eliminating the need for multiple disparate systems.

With over $12 billion in federal funds managed through our platform, Neighborly Software brings unparalleled experience to the table. Our success in administering programs such as Emergency Rental Assistance, Housing Choice Voucher, Housing Economic & Community Development, and Disaster Recovery and Mitigation has earned us a reputation for reliability, efficiency, and innovation.

How we can help

Our Solar for All platform offers dedicated portals for homeowners, inspectors, case managers, contractors, program administrators, auditors, leaders, and service providers, ensuring efficient operations. Our solution also includes robust loan processing capabilities, integrated reporting and analytics through Neighborlytics, automatic income eligibility verification, and stringent security and data privacy measures.

By connecting all stakeholders on a single, accessible platform, Neighborly Software maximizes the impact of Solar for All programs, ensuring efficient, transparent, and effective program management.

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