While the many of us would love to equip our homes with solar panels, the truth is that this is simply not an option for lower income households, and for those who rent and cannot afford to buy. According to Bryan Lewis over at ThinkProgress, Community Solar Garden (CSG) programs are one way to provide clean energy to Americans who are unable to install them on their own.
Since lower-income Americans are more likely to be negatively affected by climate change and more likely to rent a home, Lewis suggests using these communally-owned solar installations to sell clean energy to utilities, and to provide energy credits to the electricity bills of residents who are part of the program. Not only does this not require rooftop installation on individual homes, but it also delivers cheaper energy. With the average low income household spending as much as 16.4% of the annual income on residential energy, this provides a cleaner way to lower energy bills without any investment.
Of course, simply plugging the country into CSGs is no small task and will require a lot of arm-twisting with utilities, regulatory boards, and local governments. As Lewis mentions, Colorado has allowed CSGs since 2010 and the success could work as a solid model for how other states can go about it. One of the best parts of the Colorado bill is a 5% carve-out for low-income investors who cannot afford to purchase a full section from the solar installation. Most investors purchase four or five panels at a time.
Overall, Lewis’ idea to spread CSGs across the country sounds pretty solid, especially now that we have the success of Colorado to serve as an example. Do you think CSGs are an effective way to bring clean energy to Americans of all income levels? Would you take part in a community program like this?