Installing a solar power system is not cheap. For many people, making the switch to solar energy feels out of their price range. A solar energy system may seem unattainable, but it shouldn’t have to be. Everyone should be able to enjoy the many benefits of solar panels, especially the ability to save hundreds on their electric bills. Solar loans and other financing options make it easy for middle-income earners to switch to solar power, but what about lower-income homeowners? Some states are recognizing that solar energy should be available to all, and have created programs that offer solar power incentives for low-income households and communities.
There are two government programs that assist lower-income families in paying their energy bills: the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the US Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). In the past five years, Federal Energy Assistance funding under these programs totaled about $15 billion, and this money has been used to help households pay their energy bills, as well as weatherize and increase efficiency in their homes. Within the past couple of years, some states have started to use these funds for solar programs.
According to the government’s Office of Energy and Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “LIHEAP state administrators have the authority to invest in solar in their state using LIHEAP funds. Currently, 48 states use LIHEAP funds for weatherization, which includes solar.” The WAP has also begun allowing some of the available funding to be used for solar programs. The idea is to take the money that is available for energy assistance and invest it into solar, helping families immediately lower their energy bills, as well as break free from the cycle of needing assistance.
Energy assistance programs are not designed to provide 100% free solar panels, but to reduce or eliminate upfront costs so that low-income households can install a solar power system and begin saving money on their energy bills. In most cases, rebates and grants will cover a large percentage of the cost of rooftop solar installation, but any further payments will be the homeowner’s responsibility.
The Different Programs
- California– The state’s SASH program subsidizes the installation of solar panels, giving approximately $3,000 per installed kW, up to a maximum of 5.0 kW. To be eligible for this program, applicants must own their home and have a household income that is 80% or below the area median income. California also has a DAC-SASH Program that is specifically for communities most in need. To be eligible, homeowners must live in one of the top 25% most disadvantaged communities as identified by CalEnviroScreen.
- Colorado- Colorado Energy Office (CEO) subsidizes the installation of solar panels via the Federal WAP. To be eligible, applicants have to live in their own home and have a household income that is 200% or less of the federal poverty level.
- Connecticut– The Connecticut Green Bank leases solar panels to low and moderate-income households via its low-income residential solar incentive program. To be eligible, applicants must have a household income that is 100% or below the area median income.
- Hawaii- The Hawaii GEM Program offers fixed rate loans for solar panels. Rather than using measures of credit, eligibility is based upon on-time payment of electric bills over the past year.
- Illinois- The Illinois Solar For All Program target’s lower-income households when selling and leasing solar panels. Participants are guaranteed no upfront costs and no ongoing cost or fee that exceeds 50% of the value of the energy produced. To be eligible, applicants must have a household income 80% or below the area median income.
- Massachusetts- The SMART Program incentivizes the installation of solar panels by paying owners an incentive rate per kWh of electricity produced, with bonus incentives for low-income property owners. The Massachusetts Solar Loan Support Program provides 3 incentives:
- Reduced loan principal by up to 30%
- Reduced loan interest rates up to 15%
- A loan loss guarantee to lenders for residents with bad credit
- Minnesota- Public utility Xcel Energy offers incentives for income-qualified customers. It subsidizes the cost of solar panels up to $2,000 per kW and provides an incentive of $0.07 per kWh produced by the solar energy system. To be eligible, an applicant’s household income has to be either 50% or below the state median income, or 200% or below the federal poverty line.
- New York– The New York Affordable Solar Program targets lower-income households when selling and leasing solar panels. To be eligible, applicants must have a household income 80% or below the area median income.
- Washington DC- The DC Solar For All Program pays for installation of solar panels for single-family households. To be eligible, applicants must have a household income of 80% or below the area median income. Homeowners who take advantage of this program will not own the solar panels outright, but will lease them at no cost.
State and federal funding means that there are solar power incentives and rebates available to homeowners of all income levels. Whether you are looking for standard solar power tax incentives, or a program aimed at lower-income buyers, Go Solar Energy can assist you. One of our agents will go over your financial situation, see if you qualify for low-income incentives or any other incentives, and find the best plan for your budget. To speak with an agent, simply enter your zip code on our homepage, or to speak directly to one of our agents call (888) 290-3112.