Q: If solar is becoming inexpensive, why are so many households unable to access it?
While the cost of solar has plunged over the past decade, about 80% of American households are effectively locked out of the market for it. There are a variety of reasons for this: they might rent their homes, have a roof not optimized for a solar array, or have poor or insufficient credit.
Our mission is to bring solar to these 90 million households.
Q: Why does it matter that everyone have access to solar power?
For three reasons. First, from an environmental standpoint, the United States will need to deploy extraordinary amounts of new solar capacity in order to decarbonize its economy. Second, if only a few consumers have access to solar power, those who are left have to bear the costs of rising energy prices. This is especially troublesome for a third and related reason: those currently locked out of the solar market are those that need relief the most. Lower-income households households dedicate a disproportionately large share of their income to energy expenditures and are therefore most affected by increases in electricity costs.
Q: So how are you planning to do this?
Thanks to transformative policy changes taking place across the United States, we can now put solar within reach of every household, irrespective of the aforementioned barriers.
This emerging policy is called "community solar." Community solar means a household that cannot put solar on its roof can instead buy a piece of solar array that sits somewhere else in its neighborhood.
In doing so, the household switches to clean energy and saves money on its electricity bill.
Q: How does community solar fit into what you are doing?
We are dedicated to helping every single household in America go solar through organizations located in their neighborhoods. Our approach is as follows.
• First, Solstice Initiative works with developers to build community solar arrays in which everyone can easily participate.
• Second, we partner with community organizations like churches, workplaces, and schools to offer solar power to their constituents. Any home can sign up for community shared solar —no rooftop or upfront payment required. When they do, we make a donation to the community organization that helped them enroll.
• Third, we ensure that homes that sign up start seeing a credit on their utility bill every month for the clean energy their solar share generates.
When we do so, everybody wins. Those who cannot currently access solar power are brought into the market, more solar is deployed, and everyone saves on their electricity bills.
Q: This all sounds pretty complicated.
The beauty of this approach is that it's not. Under the Solstice approach, households no longer need to research if solar is right for them, have installers come to their home, or worry about selling their house or moving from the area. Going solar can, for the first time, become as easy as signing up for a gym membership or depositing money at the bank.
Q: Isn't this whole industry built on government subsidies?
No. While there are currently incentives to promote the development of renewable energy, the industry will need to stand on its own in a couple years' time. Fortunately, with the prices of solar falling as fast as it has, it is in a position to do. We believe that it is only a matter of time before solar power wins out against conventional energy on a dollar for dollar basis.
Solar power is here to stay.