New Law Removes Barriers to Solar Energy for Low-Income Residents
A new law will remove barriers in current solar polices that have limited access to affordable, clean, solar energy for low-income households in Massachusetts. The new solar provisions for residents with low incomes, spearheaded by BlueHub Capital, a national nonprofit community finance organization, will ensure everyone in Massachusetts has equitable access to solar energy, regardless of their income or where they live in the state.
BlueHub has been working to increase access to solar energy for low-income communities through legislation since 2016. In a major win for BlueHub and its fellow environmental advocates, the law, An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy, was passed by the legislature in 2020, and again in early 2021, and then signed today by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. 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.
“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, while at the same time, help fight the devastating effects of climate change,” said DeWitt Jones, president of BlueHub Energy, an affiliate of BlueHub Capital. “This new law will invite people of all incomes to be part of the solution by removing some of the key challenges to accessing solar power for homeowners and renters. Thanks and congratulations to Governor Baker and the Massachusetts legislature for making climate change a priority and taking action to improve our future.”
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.
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.
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.