Checklist guides utility-led programs to benefit customers and communities

Two women in front of community solar arrayToday, IREC and VoteSolar released a new checklist intended to help regulators and interested stakeholders evaluate and improve voluntary community solar across the country. IREC and Vote Solar developed the checklist to promote scalable and replicable community solar programs that benefit customers and communities.

“Americans everywhere want more clean energy and community solar is critical to meet that growing demand,” said Marta Tomic, community solar program director at Vote Solar. “There are proven paths to success when it comes to developing robust community solar programs, and we urge regulators, utilities and other stakeholders to use this checklist as a resource to create low-cost consumer-centric offerings that actually give customers the solar offering they want.”

“As more utility-led programs are developed and refined, and as regulators are tasked with reviewing and approving such programs, this checklist provides a useful reference to guide successful community solar programs that benefit customers,” said Sara Baldwin Auck, IREC’s regulatory program director.

Nationwide, over 220 utilities offer voluntary community solar programs across 36 states, yet the majority of these programs charge customers a premium for their subscriptions. Utilities are motivated to establish community solar for a number of reasons, including rising customer demand for renewable energy, providing economic benefits to low- to moderate-income (LMI) customers and underserved communities, and diversifying the energy resource mix, among others.

The checklist is meant to inform and guide voluntary utility-led community solar program design. The goal is for existing and future programs to adopt replicable and scalable elements that focus on customers and support meaningful participation and solar deployment. This checklist can also help drive innovative implementation strategies that ensure more customers can access and benefit from community solar, including those that have not traditionally benefited from on-site solar programs.

The resource expands on seven key principles and topics:

●     Expand customer access to clean energy
●     Offer tangible economic benefits for all participating customers
●     Identify ways to promote project development cost savings
●     Prioritize the customer experience
●     Promote competition
●     Optimize community solar to benefit the grid and community
●     Complement existing programs

The focus on utility-led community solar programs in this new tool is not intended to imply or recommend that voluntary offerings should be the only programs made available. It also does not take a position on utility-ownership. Rather, this checklist simply aims to highlight the key considerations to support replicable successes across diverse markets.