New models can make solar work for more Americans
Conventional solar energy programs support one type of ownership model: a single solar system delivering energy bill savings to a single electricity meter. That arrangement works great for some energy consumers, but it leaves plenty of others out in the dark.
Multi-unit apartments and commercial buildings face a number of challenges. The units are often rentals, where the incentive to go solar (savings on the tenants’ utility bills) is disconnected from the solar investor (the landlord). They also tend have much higher turnover than owner-occupied spaces, which is counter to long-term investment. And even if the units are individually owned, having multiple electricity customers with different utility meters share power from the same solar energy system is both technically complicated and often prohibited by the utility.
Homes of all types can run into obstacles to going solar. Renters face the same split incentive challenge mentioned above. And upwards of 75% of American residential rooftops are simply not suitable for siting solar energy systems. Shading, structural issues and other physical limitations are the most common culprits.
Going solar offers public institutions and corporate campuses a valuable opportunity to reduce their own carbon footprint and lead others by example. But school districts, libraries, and other government offices are often comprised of facilities dispersed throughout a community – each with separate electricity meters that are not physically connected to a solar energy system at one of the facilities. In addition, there is often a mismatch between where the heaviest energy loads exist and where the strongest renewable energy generation opportunities lie.
By rethinking solar ownership and the way credits are allocated on electricity bills, we can enable all of these consumers to participate in clean, local solar energy projects. Multi-unit buildings can accurately apportion credits across the many separate utility bill payers within the building. Neighbors can reap the benefits of investing in a local shared solar project. And schools and other energy consumers with multiple facilities can use one well-located solar energy system to reduce their electric bills across a number of locations.
Interested in the nuts and bolts of shared solar program design? Visit our Shared Solar policy toolkit.