Solar for All: New Program offers Cheaper, Cleaner Solar Electricity for Low-income Customers who Join Community Solar

In July, the Public Service Commission (PSC) introduced a brand new program for low-income electricity customers. “Solar for All” lets eligible households subscribe to community solar. There are no upfront costs and participants receive monthly credits on their electricity bills. The new program, which is run by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), is untested but has one big advantage: Eligibility is much wider and the program should be easier to join and thus be available to many more people than the utilities’ current HEAP (Home Energy Assistance) program, which is cumbersome and only helps to cover home heating costs.

Individuals who received any of the following can subscribe to “Solar for All” and receive monthly credits on their electricity bills: EmPower New York, HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program), SNAP (Food Stamps), Supplemental Security Income, and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). In the case of HEAP, the new program would replace customers’ current benefit; however, the program includes a guarantee that joining the new program will not result in higher electricity bills. People who do not participate in any of the programs mentioned above may also be eligible to join based on their income. Participants may cancel at any time without penalties.

Customers who are accepted will be assigned to a community solar project in their utility territory and should start receiving bill credits as soon as there is a project that can take them. Community solar projects are more numerous in some areas than others, so this might take time. According to the PSC, there are more than 300 planned community solar projects that have been approved for participation in the program, but as of May 2018 only 18 projects had been completed statewide. That number is expected to grow significantly in 2018-2019.

Information and sign-up forms are available from NYSERDA here.

“Solar for All” sounds good on paper. CLP would be grateful to hear about the experience of anyone who applies and participates.