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Background

Across the country, communities and states are working to create more inclusive solar plans and policies. From Washington, D.C.’s Solar for All initiative to Illinois’ Clean Energy Jobs Bill, there are concerted efforts to ensure the benefits of solar energy are shared by all.

Solar energy has long been considered out of reach for many in the U.S. However, costs have fallen and new business and financing models have emerged to better serve low-income households, multi-family, and rental housing markets. Reaching out to different market segments requires a targeted approach and an understanding of the specific barriers—legislative, financial, educational, or cultural—that need to be addressed.

Creating more equitable energy strategies—strategies that are built and operated to serve the entire community—requires designing more inclusive and engaging planning processes that are transparent and accountable, involve a diverse set of stakeholders, and offer opportunities to shape programs and set community priorities.

Through Solar Market Pathways, projects worked to:

  • Create and refine business models to better serve low- and moderate-income households.
  • Develop stakeholder-driven plans to accelerate solar deployment in communities.
  • Reach and engage new stakeholder groups, such as housing organizations, emergency managers, and social service providers.

Related Projects

Developing replicable pilot projects to unlock the potential of community solar in the Chicago region.
In Illinois, Cook County engaged stakeholders to develop community solar models to better reach and serve low-income households.

Expanding the awareness, effectiveness and use of virtual net metering in California and beyond.
The Center for Sustainable Energy engaged property owners, landlords, tenants, and other key stakeholders in California to remove barriers to expanding multi-family housing, a key market sector.

Developing a solar deployment plan for Vermont based on comprehensive, stakeholder informed, scenario modeling.
In Vermont, the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation utilized scenario modelling to engage stakeholders and explore options for implementing the state’s ambitious solar goals.

Toolkit

This toolkit is intended to support policymakers, government officials, and program managers in the industry and nonprofit sectors seeking opportunities to engage diverse stakeholders in an effort to make sure everyone in the U.S. can benefit from solar energy. The resources include strategies, case studies, and approaches to inform the development of effective solar policies and programs that will help create more inclusive planning processes, develop strategies to serve new market segments, and target and better serve low- and moderate-income individuals.

Stakeholder Engagement in Energy Planning

Creating innovative plans and strategies to expand the use of solar energy and drive down costs requires a process that engages a variety of stakeholders to help understand, assess, and ultimately change the status quo. Whether it’s building a single solar installation or creating a regional solar deployment strategy, projects will be more successful when they’re supported by a diverse set of champions and a team of engaged stakeholders.

Designing an engagement strategy begins with clearly articulating the end goal and identifying who needs to be engaged and why. A successful stakeholder engagement process is almost always multi-faceted. Establishing a strategy upfront can help ensure the right people are engaged at the right times, resources are used efficiently, and project and stakeholder expectations are realistic.

Resources

Tool:
Nine Questions: A Planning Tool for Stakeholder Engagement Nine Questions: A Planning Tool for Stakeholder Engagement
Author:  ISC

This guide will help you develop a strategy to identify and engage with a broad range of stakeholders whose support (or lack of opposition) will help you achieve your goals.

Tool:
Sample Template for Stakeholder Analysis from Capable Partners ... Sample Template for Stakeholder Analysis from Capable Partners Program
Author:  Capable Partners Program

A template that can be used to map the interests and influence of stakeholders.

Tool:
Stakeholder mapping from BSR Stakeholder mapping from BSR
Author:  BSR

Mapping is an important step to understanding who your key
stakeholders are, where they come from, and what they are looking for in
relationship to your business or project.

Tool:
Other Useful Resources (Annotated) Other Useful Resources (Annotated)

An annotated list of useful resources on the topic of stakeholder engagement.

Report:
Tips from Rocky Mountain Institute for Successful Stakeholder ... Tips from Rocky Mountain Institute for Successful Stakeholder Engagement
Author:  RMI

This guide provides helpful tips for designing a thoughtful stakeholder engagement strategy, including building agreement along the way, listening as an ally, and more.

 
Tool:
Exercises and Activities for Stakeholder Convenings Exercises and Activities for Stakeholder Convenings
Author:  RMI

This handout highlights several tools and exercises to build understanding, reflection, and action into your stakeholder process.

Report:
A Local Official’s Guide to Online Public Engagement A Local Official’s Guide to Online Public Engagement
Author:  Institute for Local Government

A guide to using online tools to for public engagement—ranging from informing, consulting to deliberating with citizens.

   
Report:
Gathering: The Art and Science of Effective Convenings Gathering: The Art and Science of Effective Convenings
Author:  The Rockefeller Foundation

This publication will allow you to determine whether to host a convening; clarify your purpose; build an effective team; curate an experience; and ensure follow through for impact.

 
Tool:
Solar Community Engagement Strategies for Planners Solar Community Engagement Strategies for Planners
Author:  American Planning Association

Resources to help initiate a community conversation about solar energy, respond to common solar misconceptions, and better engage and educate community members about solar energy.

 
Tool:
Solar 101 Materials and Resources Solar 101 Materials and Resources
Author:  ISC

An annotated bibliography of introductory resources that can help new partners and stakeholders get familiar with solar energy.

 
Report:
The Stakeholder Engagement Process: An Overview The Stakeholder Engagement Process: An Overview
Author:  ISC

This guide offers a four-step process to planning stakeholder engagement.

 
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Webinar:
Stakeholder Engagement with Implementation ... Stakeholder Engagement with Implementation in Mind
Author:  ISC, RMI

This webinar reviewed tools and strategies for structuring a successful stakeholder engagement process.

 
Report:
Getting Started: The How and Why of Stakeholder Engagement Getting Started: The How and Why of Stakeholder Engagement
Author:  ISC

This guide provides an overview of why and how to engage stakeholders in your project.

Inclusive Solar Programs and Policies

The economics of residential solar energy have improved substantially over the past few years, making solar more accessible and more affordable for more people than ever before. However, barriers to solar investment for low- and moderate-income individuals persist. Chief among them is the higher upfront cost required to purchase an on-site solar system outright—many of the available financing and incentive programs have traditionally served higher income households and/or individuals with higher credit scores. Low-income households are less likely to own their home, more likely to live in a multi-family unit, and tend to move more often—all of which can make it harder to access the benefits of solar energy. For newer and/or younger homeowners, lower loan-to-value ratios and mortgage insurance tend to make it more difficult to invest in a long-term asset like solar.

Targeted solar programs and policies can help address some of the barriers to adoption of on-site distributed solar, especially those barriers faced by low- and moderate-income households. Policymakers and program directors, designers, and managers have an important role to play in reaching new audiences and demographics and ensuring more people across the U.S. can access and take advantage of the benefits of on-site distributed solar energy.

Resources

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Webinar:
Perspectives on Solar Consumer ... Perspectives on Solar Consumer and Community Advocates
Author:  ISC, IREC, RAP, NAACP

Insights on consumer equity issues, the role of consumers and communities in the clean energy movement, and strategies for energy equity conversations.

Case study:
Clean Energy for Resilient Communities: Expanding Solar Generation ... Clean Energy for Resilient Communities: Expanding Solar Generation in Baltimore’s Low-Income Neighborhoods
Author:  Clean Energy Group

Examines how low income communities in Baltimore can benefit from battery storage.

Report:
Directory of State Clean Energy Programs and Policies for Low-Income ... Directory of State Clean Energy Programs and Policies for Low-Income Residents
Author:  Clean Energy States Alliance

A survey of current and planned state activities that seek to bring the benefits of clean energy to low-income residents and communities.

Report:
Bringing the Benefits of Solar Energy to Low-Income Customer... Bringing the Benefits of Solar Energy to Low-Income Customers
Author:  Clean Energy States Alliance

This guide explores barriers to solar access for low income households and offers strategies policymakers and government agencies can use to overcome them and encourage solar adoption.

 
Article:
How Wealthy are Residential Solar Customers? Household Income ... How Wealthy are Residential Solar Customers? Household Income and Solar Adoption in the U.S.

This brief report provides data about the distribution of solar ownership across income levels.

 
Report:
Bridging the Solar Income Gap Bridging the Solar Income Gap
Author:  GW Solar Institute

Recommendations for expanding solar energy in lower income communities including policies and tools.

 
Report:
State Policies to Increase Low-Income Communities’ Access to ... State Policies to Increase Low-Income Communities’ Access to Solar Power
Author:  Center for American Progress

State programs that are expanding solar adoption among low-income households.

 
Report:
Solar Powering Your Community: A Guide for Local Governments Solar Powering Your Community: A Guide for Local Governments
Author:  US DOE

A range of successfully field-tested policy and program options designed to assist local governments and stakeholders in developing and implementing a strategic local solar plan.

 
Report:
Ensuring New York Solar Programs Reach Low-Income Residents Ensuring New York Solar Programs Reach Low-Income Residents
Author:  Columbia School of International Affairs, Grid Alternatives

Overview of existing state policies and special incentive programs for solar for low-income residents and how the State of New York can increase low-income adoption of solar.

 
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Video:
Expanding Access to Solar Energy ... Expanding Access to Solar Energy for All American Households
Author:  Center for American Progress

This presentation explores state and federal policy options to ensure equitable access to renewable energy.