Solstice raises $3.1 million for innovative, equitable approach to community solar
Climate change is a top concern for many Americans and its mitigation requires massive clean energy expansion. Still, 77% of American households cannot install rooftop solar power due to rented housing, the structure of their rooftop, the upfront cost, or access to financing. Solstice Power Technologies, Inc., a software and customer management company, connects households and community organizations to community solar. Solstice has big plans for expansion in 2021, having just closed an oversubscribed $3.1 million funding round. Initially, Solstice will focus on Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Maine, New Jersey, with more states quickly following.
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“The benefits of renewables have mainly accrued to higher-income homeowners over the last several decades, and there has never been a more urgent time to democratize access to the green economy,” said Steph Speirs, Co-Founder and CEO. “Solstice has worked for years to put solar within reach of excluded households, and we are excited to partner with our investors to accelerate an equitable transition to clean energy.”
Leadership. One of the only companies in the solar industry co-founded and led by women of color, Solstice has generated demand for 111 MW of clean energy across 25 community renewable projects in multiple states, with the total clean energy capacity from enrolled households, small businesses and nonprofits representing the environmental equivalent of not burning 31 million pounds of coal. In addition, Solstice’s software manages the end-to-end customer experience for the life of the 20-year renewable energy project on behalf of developers and financiers, from customer enrollment to billing/crediting to ongoing customer engagement.
Trust. Building community trust is the motivating force for Solstice’s work. As part of its community partnership program, the company shares its revenues with local partners (such as municipalities, schools, employers, and houses of worship) that spread the word to their members about the benefits of green power. Since 2019, Solstice has donated more than $150,000 to these local community groups and individual Ambassadors in order to build clean energy wealth closer to home.
Inclusion. In owning the customer experience for community renewable energy projects, Solstice advocates for these projects to include more lower-income populations and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Among the chief barriers for participation in clean energy is the minimum FICO credit score qualification requirement of 680+ imposed by project financiers and/or developers in an effort to mitigate perceived payment default risk. Upon discovering that the traditional FICO standard excluded more than half the country from participating in solar, Solstice partnered with the Department of Energy to create the EnergyScore, an innovative and proprietary qualification standard that is simultaneously more accurate than FICO credit scores in predicting utility bill payments, as well as more inclusive of low-income Americans. The funding proceeds will expand the deployment of the EnergyScore to additional projects across the country, giving clean energy to households that would have otherwise been locked out of the market.
Who invested? The funding was led by Total Carbon Neutrality Ventures with additional investments from American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, Schneider Electric Ventures, Next Wave Impact, Active Impact Investments, Powerhouse Ventures, Gratitude Railroad, H/L Ventures, SustainVC, Halcyon Angels, and prominent angel investors.
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