The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced a new National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) target: to enable community solar systems to power the equivalent of five million households by 2025 (26 GW) and create $1 billion in energy bill savings. Reaching these milestones will help achieve the Biden-Harris Administration’s goals of achieving 100% clean electricity by 2035 and ensure that all Americans can reap the benefits of renewable energy while building community wealth and resiliency.
“Community solar is one of the most powerful tools we have to provide affordable solar energy to all American households, regardless of whether they own a home or have a roof suitable for solar panels,” said Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm. “Achieving these ambitious targets will lead to meaningful energy cost savings, create jobs in these communities, and make our clean energy transition more equitable.”
To achieve these new targets, DOE is offering free, on-demand technical assistance to NCSP partnership members. Technical assistance provides personalized support to organizations deploying community solar to help them accelerate implementation, improve the performance of their program or project, and build capacity for future community solar development. NCSP has already distributed $1 million for technical assistance and hopes to provide $2 million in the next year.
Why community solar? There is enough solar installed to power 19 million households across the United States. Despite this unprecedented deployment, many Americans still lack access to affordable solar electricity, including many renters, homeowners who lack affordable financing options, and those without suitable roof conditions. Community solar is a form of energy generation where members subscribe to a portion of a solar array, usually located near their community. As the solar array produces energy, subscribers receive a portion of the revenue from the energy produced, typically as savings on their monthly electric bill — a critical factor for low-income and disadvantaged communities whose energy burden is three times higher than for non-low-income households.
There is enough community solar installed in the U.S. today to power 600,000 households—achieving DOE’s new NSCP target would mean an increase of more than 700% in the next four years. The recently released Solar Futures Study report from DOE and National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows how solar can play a major role in a decarbonized grid.
“We know customers want distributed solar energy and that local solar brings significant societal and grid benefits, but we need strong policies and goals to bring those benefits to fruition,’ says Jeff Cramer, Executive Director for Coalition for Community Solar Access. “DOE’s goal of 26 GW by 2025 is consistent with the accelerated growth that our research shows is needed for the community solar industry to meet our climate goals at the lowest cost. Congress and state policymakers should listen to the DOE and do their part to accelerate the growth of community solar so we can build a clean, cost-effective electric grid that works for all Americans.”
What is NCSP? The NCSP is a DOE initiative led by the Solar Energy Technologies Office, in collaboration with the NREL and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The partnership includes a coalition of community solar stakeholders, such as State, local and Tribal governments, solar developers, and community-based organizations, working to expand access to affordable community solar to every American household. Partners leverage peer networks as well as technical assistance funding and resources to overcome the persistent barriers to expanding community solar access with a focus on those in underserved communities. As of September 2021, NCSP had over 650 members from over 440 partner organizations.
The Sharing the Sun report released by NREL in collaboration with NCSP shows that community solar can lead to substantial bill savings—from 5 to 25%. Achieving $1 billion in cost savings would mean that, on average, community solar projects would provide a 20% bill savings. This target, along with other potential solutions for equitable community solar deployment, was informed by NCSP stakeholders in a recent request for information.
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