How states can pursue solar under the DOE Weatherization Assistance Program
High energy burdens faced by low-income communities lead to energy insecurity with millions facing power shut-offs each year. The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) is a critical program that reduces energy costs for low-income households by making their homes more energy efficient. Currently, WAP provides essential weatherization services to 35,000 households each year — and thanks to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that was signed into law in November 2021, the program is seeing a windfall of $3.5 billion. Now is the ideal time to help more working families reap the benefits of renewable energy like solar.
Solar is one of the most powerful tools we have when it comes to saving families money on their utility bills and keeping the lights on, and several states have already pursued solar within the WAP program — including California, Colorado, and New York. Last year, alongside our partners in the Solar Access for All Coalition, we proposed recommended changes to WAP that would expand access to solar power and ease energy burdens for tens of thousands of families.
Vote Solar published a detailed report in 2017, describing how states have pursued solar under WAP. In brief, there are a few key steps and considerations for states who wish to provide solar under WAP:
- Ensure that rooftop solar is written into your state’s weatherization plan. Making this change may require review and approval by the state weatherization advisory board. Photovoltaic (PV) solar is allowable under WAP, but only if it’s in the state plan — so the first step is to make sure PV is included! Thermal solar technologies, like solar hot water systems, are already pre-approved.
- Develop a plan for a pilot and work alongside DOE on implementation. DOE recommends starting with a pilot effort to ensure that the first several solar projects go smoothly and the appropriate data are collected. Thorough training is an important element of any new program, so work with your state partners who administer and execute weatherization projects— like community action agencies and subcontractors — to develop a comprehensive training plan.
- Ensure that projects meet the requirements outlined by DOE. All solar arrays funded by WAP should:
- Be installed on a building or structure with 1-4 dwelling units
- Cost no more than $3,815 on average per dwelling unit
- Be sized at 15kW or less
- Be purchased (not leased)
By investing federal dollars strategically, we can expand equitable solar access, reduce air pollution in our communities, and lift families out of energy poverty. Growing solar through WAP is a win for both people and planet.