SOLAR vs. POLAR, Pt. 3: How LIHEAP and the Solar Boom are Saving Money and Lives

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Spotlighting other innovative pilot programs that had success with Solar innovations and initiatives, a vibrant atlas of collaboration has been electrified all around the country, illuminating the important connection between public and private partnerships as this exciting new technology continues to revolutionize the future of energy assistance in the short term and independence in the long run.

Solar Builder in its coverage profiled “Local Power (Grass Valley, CA) – This team created a solar thrift store where individuals can donate their used PV system equipment for a tax deduction. That equipment can then be resold for much less than the cost of new system components, reducing the cost for others to go solar.  SunShares VEIC (Burlington, VT) – This team developed a program where community solar subscriptions are tied to an employer, who passes the benefits on to employees. Employees pay for the energy they use through payroll deductions, and the employer sends those funds to the energy system owner.  Solar Pioneers (Brooklyn, NY) – This team increased local education and improved customer acquisition in two low-income communities, creating a training curriculum and empowering youth with the knowledge to be community ambassadors for solar. They installed 307 kW of solar.  RE-volv (San Francisco, CA) – This team enables nonprofits to go solar through an affordable lease financed by a crowd funding-led revolving loan fund. They trained more than 250 “solar ambassadors” and raised $330,000. All the energy from these projects benefit LMI, saving an average of 25% on their utility bills.  Thrifty Community Solar Barn Raising (Staunton, VA) – Barn raising is a Mennonite tradition, which the team leveraged to develop PV systems. To prove their model’s ability to scale solar installations for rural communities, this team worked with the national network of Mennonite organizations and facilities, and partnered with the state’s largest solar developer. The team installed 172 kW and engaged nearly 200 people.” (1)


Looking to the future, more teamwork of this nature with dynamic players on the field of battle to tackle the continuing battle on behalf of distressed homes and communities to increase energy efficiency through new and ground-breaking partnerships, Electric Light and Power Magazine spotlighted a motivation among leaders like the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance, who are pushing the envelope even more aggressively by “currently approaching state governments, utilities and first nations about forming "pay for success" partnerships — reducing risk for the public sector by only requiring payment if certain metrics are met. For example, if RREAL were to partner with a state government to reduce energy assistance costs by 10 percent over 10 years, the state would implement RREAL's plan, but only pay RREAL if within 10 years there truly is a 10 percent reduction. Pay-for-success projects have been gaining traction since the first one based in the U.S. was launched in 2015. In February 2018, Congress passed the Social Impact Partnership to Pay for Results Act, which sets aside $100 million every year for programs of this sort. Pay-for-success funding, however, is merely a placeholder for RREAL — a solar carve-out in LIHEAP funds is the ultimate goal.” (2)