Solar for Low to Middle Income Households
Rooftop solar is steadily growing in popularity throughout the country, but especially in Massachusetts. Due in part to decreasing costs, solar panels provide benefits to homeowners and renters alike. For homeowners, installing solar PV helps them save on their electricity bills and reduce their carbon emissions. Renters can buy into community solar programs that can help renters and those who are unable to get solar on their own homes.
Low to middle income (LMI) households are those that earn 80% or less of the area’s median income. LMI households represent 43% of the U.S. population and 70% of the potential solar customers in Massachusetts. However, there are still some barriers in place against LMI families in accessing solar. These barriers include high upfront cost, low credit scores, and/or renting, and solar programs and financing for these populations needs to be wider spread.
Currently, most of the solar customers in the United States are in the same demographic. The typical residential solar customer is middle to upper class, middle-aged, and usually male. A recent study found that the median income of households that install solar panels in some states was roughly $32,000 higher than the median household income in those states. Solar panels are attractive to this demographic because they also tend to be more environmentally minded, and may have the disposable income to pay upfront costs for solar panels or to buy into community solar programs.
However, there is a lot of opportunity in installing rooftop solar on LMI households. Half of all the residential solar potential is on LMI households. Solar capacity on LMI households could total 320 GW and, for context, the U.S. installed 10.6 GW of new solar in 2017. Despite all this potential, however, there still needs to be more programs available to encourage this growth.
What programs exist and how can they help?
Increasing the number of LMI households to get solar can be encouraged by the declining cost of solar, specific programs, and customer awareness.
Solar Access is a state-sponsored program that helps LMI households get solar panels and heat pumps. In pairing the two, homeowners can expect to save money on energy and reduce their carbon emissions. An energy expert will guide homeowners through the program, which adds a special Solar Access incentive to the already existing combination of utility, state, and federal incentives for renewable energy. The program ensures that you will own your solar panels and a heat pump and pay less than you do now for energy.
“By supporting this program, we are able to increase access to clean energy technologies for more Massachusetts residents while advancing the Commonwealth’s ambitious climate agenda,” said MassCEC CEO Stephen Pike. “As we work to reduce the barriers to clean energy adoption for the state’s low-to-moderate income residents, we ensure that more residents across the state will be able to realize the significant economic benefits these technologies can provide, including increased efficiency and lower energy bills.”