Solar with Justice

To optimize the benefits of solar energy, access to solar photovoltaics by under-resourced communities needs to happen now.

PV costs have fallen dramatically, making it cost-effective in many locations. Solar energy provides health, environmental, job creation, and economic development benefits, while saving consumers money. And no one stands to benefit from reduced energy costs more than low- and moderate-income (LMI) consumers.

But there are significant obstacles to deploying solar so that its tangible benefits are provided to under-resourced communities. Among other factors:

  • LMI renters can have difficulty benefiting financially from solar.
  • LMI homeowners with below-average credit scores or problematic roofs are often unable to qualify for programs to install PV
  • Most LMI households do not have sufficient tax liability to take advantage of the federal residential tax credit for solar.
  • Federal housing assistance programs can limit LMI households’ ability to benefit financially when solar is installed.
  • LMI households could be harmed by long-term solar contracts that pose financial risks if utility solar programs or electricity rates change.

CESA’s Solar with Justice project identifies barriers to LMI solar and advances strategies for overcoming those barriers. It is currently focused especially on the roles of state agencies and frontline community-based organizations in under-resourced communities. CESA is helping those two groups learn from each other and forge partnerships to promote solar. More specifically, CESA seeks to (1) help state energy agencies engage, partner with, and develop programs for community-based organizations; and (2) facilitate exchange of ideas between frontline energy equity organizations and state policymakers so that the two groups better understand each other and are prepared for ongoing cooperation.

The Solar with Justice Report

In December 2019, CESA published a major report, Solar with Justice: Strategies for Powering Up Under-Resourced Communities and Growing an Inclusive Solar Market. With funding from  The Nathan Cummings Foundation, CESA worked with the Jackson State University Department of Urban and Regional Planning , the Partnership for Southern Equity, PaulosAnalysis, the University of Michigan School for Environment & Sustainability, and The Solutions Project to research the solar landscape in under-resourced communities and identify the most useful strategies for advancing solar  technologies in ways that benefit those communities. The report includes detailed recommendations for various key stakeholder groups, including state governments, community organizations, philanthropic foundations, the solar industry, and municipalities.

Solar with Justice - English version cover

Photo courtesy RE-volv.