Low-Income residents will benefit from greater access to solar energy
After years of advocacy, BlueHub recommendations included in the bill
Newly passed landmark legislation will remove barriers that have limited access to solar energy for low-income households in Massachusetts. The new solar provisions, spearheaded by BlueHub Capital, a national nonprofit community finance organization, will make it easier for residents with low incomes to save money on their electric bills by more easily accessing solar energy, regardless of the community in which they live.
The bill, An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy, was passed by the House of Representatives today and by the State Senate on March 15; it now awaits Governor Baker’s signature or veto. It includes several changes to state law that will drive down greenhouse gas emissions, create clean energy jobs, and protect environmental justice communities, in addition to the positive changes to solar policy.
The provisions of the bill that address barriers to solar power for residents with low incomes were sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Dykema (D—Holliston) and Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D—Acton). BlueHub worked closely with Rep. Tom Golden (D—Lowell) and Sen. Michael Barrett (D—Lexington) as the chairs of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy last session.
“This groundbreaking bill opens up a new opportunity for low-income families across Massachusetts to access clean solar energy and save money on their utility bills. We are deeply grateful to Senate President Spilka and House Speaker Mariano for prioritizing this important legislation and getting it done early in the legislative session. We thank Rep. Dykema and Sen. Eldridge for their tireless advocacy on behalf of low-income residents. And we are especially appreciative of Rep. Golden, Sen. Barrett and Rep. Jeff Roy for their commitment to include this important provision in the climate change bill that will help low-income families throughout our Commonwealth,” said DeWitt Jones, president of BlueHub Energy, an affiliate of BlueHub Capital. “In order to address the impacts of climate change, people of all incomes need to be part of the solution and this bill removes some of the key challenges to bringing solar power and the savings of solar energy to low-income residents.”
Key low-income solar provisions include:
- Lifting geographic restrictions for participation in community shared solar programs. This will help eliminate barriers that have limited access to solar for low-income households and tenants in Boston, the surrounding communities, and many other environmental justice neighborhoods.
- Requiring utility companies to allow alternative financing mechanisms for community shared solar programs so low-income residents are not locked into complicated, expensive and burdensome contracts. This will significantly increase the number of residents with low incomes that can benefit from solar savings and also enhances consumer protections to ensure low-income participants save money on their electric bills.
- Establishing requirements to ensure that low-income residents and environmental justice communities benefit from the design of future solar programs and policies.
Massachusetts has some of the highest electricity costs in the country, and utilities bills are often cited as a major challenge for families with low incomes. Solar power can cut households’ electric bills and provide greater predictability with those bills, by locking in electricity rates that otherwise fluctuate over time.
Many households with low incomes are renters and cannot install solar panels on their own roofs, or they are homeowners but rooftop solar is not an option due to cost, roof issues or shading. Community shared solar projects are critical, and often the only way low-income households can access the savings provided by solar. Less than 4 percent of solar under the state’s current solar program is comprised of low-income community solar projects.
BlueHub has been working through its affiliate, BlueHub Energy, for over a decade to develop innovative financing and business models that expand access to solar for residents with low incomes in communities across the state.
BlueHub has developed approximately 7 megawatts of solar capacity across 30 projects in Massachusetts. The projects serve affordable housing developments, municipal facilities and nonprofit organizations such as the Greater Boston Food Bank.
Since 1985, BlueHub Capital has been building healthy communities where low-income people live and work. BlueHub Capital has provided more than $2.2 billion in financing to projects and businesses that create affordable housing, good jobs, and new opportunities for underserved people and communities.
About BlueHub Capital
BlueHub Capital is a national nonprofit community finance organization with a 35-year history of building healthy communities where low-income people live and work. Since 1985, BlueHub Capital has invested over $2.2 billion to support low-income communities, creating and preserving over 24,000 units of affordable housing, 13,000 jobs, healthcare services for more than 197,000 patients, education and daycare for more than 70,700 children, and prevented over 1,150 foreclosure-related evictions. To learn more about BlueHub Capital and the impact of its investments, visit bluehubcapital.org.