Newton’s Community Solar Share Initiative: Sometimes, the Answer Is Hidden in Plain Sight
MAPC Planning 101
Submitted by Elise Harmon
Typically, low income households pay a higher percentage of income for electricity than those in other income brackets. In Boston, for example, median-income households spend 2.8 percent of their total income on electricity on average, whereas low-income households spend 6.7 percent of income on electricity. At the same time, disadvantaged households often do not have the ability to install solar panels, which can help reduce energy costs. Even with the recent increase in affordability of residential solar, several factors often keep this demographic from taking advantage. Often, they do not have the capital and appropriate financing mechanisms to pay the upfront costs of buying and installing solar panels. In addition, low-income households are often renters or live in multi-family homes, meaning they often don’t have the authority to initiate installation.
The City of Newton has found a simple solution to this challenge – one that provides the financial benefits of clean energy adoption directly to low-income residents. Newton’s Community Solar Share Initiative (CoSSI) is a cooperative pilot program being run by the City of Newton, its solar developer Ameresco, energy provider Eversource, and Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), which administers many low-income energy programs in the Boston metro area.