Solar for All Program Design Policy Toolkit


This toolkit is intended to help connect entities (states, municipalities, nonprofit organizations, tribal governments and Territories) applying for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Solar for All Program with frontline, BIPOC and marginalized groups interested in providing input on program design. Click the links below to learn more about low-income solar program design, best practices and state/local examples.

For questions about this toolkit or Vote Solar’s participation in the Solar for All Program please reach out to Olivia Nedd, Sr. Policy Director Access & Equity 

Jump to a Section:
Solar for All Basics
Program Design
Program Best Practices
Building an Equity-Centered Program
State Examples of Programs
Where to Get Assistance on Applying to the EPA’s Solar for All Program
Additional Links

Solar for All Basics

The EPA released the $7 billion Solar for All program on June 28, 2023. The program is a competitive grant that will award up to 60 grants to states, territories, Tribal governments, nonprofit organizations, and municipalities to increase the number of low-income and disadvantaged households and communities that are ready for solar energy. Frontline and BIPOC communities have historically been underserved by clean energy resources. For low-wealth households, energy burden is a critical concern, because of the percentage of their income that goes towards energy expenses as compared to higher-income households. This disproportionate burden can lead to families making tradeoffs on healthcare and household needs, as well as financial stress. Clean energy technologies like solar have the potential to reduce that burden, so long as it is equitably distributed across communities.

  • To learn more about energy burden, check out the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s (ACEEE) Energy Burden Report. The report explores energy burden patterns nationally, regionally, and across all metro areas and also provides recommendations. 
  • The Sierra Club offers an energy burden calculator to help you estimate the percentage of your income that is spent on energy expenses. 
  • The Department of Energy offers the Low-income Energy Affordability Data (LEAD) Tool is an online platform that allows users to compare the cost of energy relative to income, also known as the energy burden, for various geographic regions. These data-driven insights can assist with program planning and creating better energy policy.
  • Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool was created by executive order in 2021 as an interactive map that uses datasets as indicators of burdens in eight categories (climate change, energy, health, housing, legacy pollution, transportation, water, wastewater and workforce development). The tool uses this information to identify communities that are experiencing these burdens.

Program Design

Solar program design requires the strategic planning and implementation of initiatives aimed at promoting equitable access to solar energy and storage systems. This includes a number of aspects, including program and subscription design considerations, financing options, community engagement, trust building, incentive structures and fees to name a few. Effective solar program design must take into account local, state and federal policy, and racial and class implications. Below are links to a collection of resources that support creating a robust solar program that benefits everyone, especially BIPOC and low-wealth communities.

Program Best Practices 

When developing a solar program, think of best practices as a set of guidelines and strategies that promote access and equity, effective development, and implementation. There are a number of unique barriers and challenges BIPOC and low-wealth populations face when seeking to access solar. A combination of various best practices can reduce challenges, maximize the benefits of solar adoption, and minimize potential harm. Program best practices can include a combination of technical approaches, financial strategies and regulatory considerations. Below you will find information about solar program best practices that advance equity for BIPOC and low-wealth communities, advance the workforce, and foster overall participation and engagement in programs. 

  • Identifying Customers 
  • Ownership
  • Financing 
  • Marketing, Outreach and Engagement 
  • Trust Building 
  • Consumer Protection 
  • Workforce Development 
      • Advancing Inclusion Through Clean Energy intends to help energy-sector professionals, state and local policymakers, regional education and training sector leaders, and community organizations get a clearer look at the nature, needs, and opportunities associated with the future clean energy workforce.
      • With the goal of defining actionable solutions to shared workforce challenges, Key Recommendations: Cultivating a Diverse and Skilled Talent Pipeline for the Equitable Transition identifies and shares challenges, best practices, resources, and key information through structured, results-oriented meetings.
      • The Diversity Best Practices Guide for the Solar Industry is designed to inform readers on best practices for industry diversity and provides some tools to develop a more active effort on diversity and inclusion not just in the solar industry, but across the entire energy economy. Improving diversity is not just the right thing to do, it’s also a smart business decision.
  • Community Input 

Building an Equity-Centered Program

Building an equity-centered solar program requires prioritizing inclusivity, equity, and social justice. Programs aimed at serving BIPOC and low-wealth communities require trust building; they must be developed in consultation with those communities and aimed towards addressing historical disparities. Traditionally, BIPOC and low-wealth communities have been systemically excluded from decisions around their energy, which leads to high energy burdens, adverse health outcomes, and fewer opportunities to build wealth and obtain jobs. A successful clean energy transition must include and center those communities while accounting for all their needs.   

State Examples of Programs 

One of the best ways to develop a program targeting BIPOC and low-wealth communities is to see examples of successful programs. Below is a list of programs divided by single-family, multifamily, community solar and nonprofits. Each of these programs has elements of best practices and program design that when combined could create an excellent program. Note this is not a comprehensive list.

  • Single-Family Programs 
  • Multifamily Program 
  • Community Solar Program 
  • Nonprofits 

Where to Get Assistance on Applying to the EPA’s Solar for All Program

Applying for the Solar for All grant can be a tricky process to navigate, especially if you do not have the technical expertise to approach grant applications or the policy knowledge on nuanced aspects of equitable program design. There are some resources out there to support you, and we encourage you to take advantage of them. Below are a few ways you can do so: 

  • The Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) is helping states prepare to apply to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for funding under the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund’s Solar for All Program. CESA has been convening discussions among state officials to allow them to share ideas and questions about this funding opportunity. CESA is also producing model program templates that states can adapt and use as starting points for developing their Solar for All program concepts to submit to EPA.
  • Environmental Justice Thriving Technical Assistance Centers – these are technical assistance (TA) centers that have received $177 million from the EPA to help support disadvantaged communities to address and remove barriers to clean energy access. These centers will provide training and other assistance to build capacity for navigating federal grant application systems, writing strong grant proposals, and effectively managing grant funding. In the various regions, there are liaisons and regional coordinators that are available to help and provide assistance with grant applications. 
  • The Department of Energy’s Community Power Accelerator connects developers, investors, philanthropists, and community-based organizations to create an ecosystem of partners that work together to get more equity-focused community solar projects financed and deployed.

Additional Links 

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