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Report | 2024

Collaborating with Utilities to Meet Underserved Community Needs

A Guide to Equitable Commercial Solar and Solar + Storage Deployment

By Erifili DraklellisRachel GoldRoberto Zanchi
Download the report below

Communities of color and low-income populations dedicate a disproportionate amount of their income to pay for energy. They also experience more frequent and prolonged service disruptions, impacting community health and safety.

When designed correctly, commercial solar + storage installations have the potential to ameliorate these issues. However, utility programs created to support such installations are frequently underutilized because communities often lack the time and resources needed to access them. Further, historically, few utilities have had the motivation and incentives or experience to account for this barrier.

RMI provided process support to Solar Energy Innovation Network teams, and described their experiences in accessing these clean energy resources to support historically underserved communities in our latest report. The report also outlines the roles of key stakeholders (e.g., utilities, building owners, and community organizations) in supporting program delivery and recommended practices to collaborate to meet community needs. The report focuses on commercial solar and solar + storage resources, including solar + storage microgrids. These technologies can offer benefits to communities who do not own their own properties. When designed to act as a “resilience hub,” they can also support communities in times of electricity disruption.

The report includes a step-by-step guide to collaborating with utilities to implement programs for historically underserved customers. Utilities can support these projects with financing assistance, modernized rate designs, and, in the deployment phase, technical assistance for system design and interconnection.

Download and read this report to understand how to enable collaboration between community organizations and utilities. By doing so, we can advance cleaner, more resilient, and fairer energy systems for all.