Low-Income Community Solar Demonstration Project
In 2015, the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) launched a low-income community solar demonstration project. The purpose of the project was twofold: 1) to demonstrate the feasibility of building 100% low-income community solar models, and 2) to reduce household energy burden.
GRID Alternatives was awarded a $1.2 million grant from CEO to implement the project. GRID was responsible for securing utility partners, developing program terms, building each project and leveraging CEO dollars with a 2:1 partner match.
Seven utility partners were confirmed and six community solar models were built. Project partners included: Empire Electric Association, Delta Montrose Electric Association, Holy Cross Energy, Yampa Valley Electric Association, Fort Collins Utilities, San Miguel Power Association and Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association. Each model demonstrated a unique characteristic (e.g. siting, financing, etc.) and became a utility-owned asset once constructed. All utility providers agreed to offer solar credits to low-income subscribers to help ensure the solar energy provided is affordable. Subscribers are connected to each system for a set period of time and must reapply at the end of the contract term. Targeted subscribers were also eligible for weatherization services.
CEO hired Lotus Sustainability and Engineering, LLC to compile an in-depth report evaluating the demonstration project. The report, Insights from the Colorado Energy Office Low-Income Community Solar Demonstration Project - December 2017, includes overview of energy burden and case studies describing the programmatic and financial aspects of each community solar model.
Low-Income Community Solar Offerings in Investor-Owned Utility Territory
CEO negotiated for an additional 20 MW of 100 percent low-income community solar to be added in investor owned utility territories beginning in 2017. This increases the available capacity to low-income customers more than 20-fold.