Lower-income earners, families of color, and senior citizens spend disproportionately more of their income on utilities without the means to compensate when their bills go up. Georgia is one of the top five states in the country with the highest low-income energy burden. Despite dramatic decreases in the cost of clean energy, solar options remain out of reach for most low-and-moderate income (LMI) families.
“Solar has been largely inaccessible to low-income communities,” says Capital Good Fund founder and CEO Andy Posner. “If no one is giving them the opportunity, you’re increasing that income gap, because the wealthiest people will access it and further increase their wealth profile.”
Posner’s nonprofit CDFI Capital Good Fund is currently piloting a very cool new program, Georgia BRIGHT (Building, Renewables, Investing in Green, Healthy, Thriving Communities), to try and change that.
This is a solar leasing program to expand solar access. More than 200 homeowners making less than $100,000 a year will be able to lease solar systems that Capital Good Fund owns and maintains. The average family stands to save 20% on energy costs a month. To qualify, homeowners must have a roof in good condition and meet certain income requirements, with no minimum credit score required.
The Georgia BRIGHT Solar leasing program is available to Georgia families living in Metro Atlanta, Greater Savannah, Fulton County, Athens, and Dekalb County. Georgia BRIGHT has had approximately 185 participant inquiries since Sept. 26 and just completed its first installation in December.
Impact beyond solar energy
As a part of this program, this collective of EPCs will be providing employment opportunities and training from within the LMI communities in which the solar systems will be installed. Capital Good Fund is working with local installers, Sunpath Solar, Better Tomorrow Solar, and Be Smart Home Solutions, which will handle the Engineering, Permitting, and Construction (EPC).
“Our organizations are passionate about making solar accessible to all,” says Seth Gunning, Principal at Sunpath Solar. “We are all thrilled to partner with Capital Good Fund on this transformative initiative and look forward to the positive impact it will have on the Georgia community.”
More than a third of Georgia households are either experiencing energy poverty, where more than 10% of their income is spent on utility bills, or are considered overburdened, spending more than 6% on utility bills. In Georgia average household energy bills were 14% higher than the national average from 2010-2021. Upcoming utility rate hikes are expected to increase bills by an average of nearly $48 over the next two years.
Similar to the 2023 Residential Solar Project of the Year, this program is possible because the Inflation Reduction Act, which allows nonprofits to use tax credits to reduce the cost of solar panels for low to moderate-income homeowners.
Grants and other financial support have also been secured from various organizations, including $1 million from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation to aid in the set up of the program.
“Georgia BRIGHT is a discount solar lease program that saves LMI homeowners money starting day one,” says Capital Good Fund Chief Business Officer Aisha Bussey. “Because it is a lease program, there is no upfront cost and families do not pay to install or maintain the panels.”
Listen to more in-depth conversations on Solar Builder's YouTube channel
Our most popular series include:
Power Forward! | A collaboration with BayWa r.e. to discuss higher level industry topics.
The Buzz | Where we give our 2 cents per kWh on the residential solar market.
The Pitch | Discussions with solar manufacturers about their new technology and ideas.