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Reducing Energy Burden with Solar: Colorado’s Strategy and Roadmap for States

Low-income residents suffer from a high energy burden, which can force these residents to choose between paying energy bills and purchasing other necessities. Solar photovoltaics (PV) can reduce this burden but low-income residents face barriers to adoption. This report analyzes Colorado's strategy to support low-income PV adoption and generates lessons for other states considering similar programs.

The Colorado Energy Office (CEO) recently implemented a multipronged strategy to reduce energy burden for low-income Colorado residents through the deployment of PV. The CEO strategy includes three major components:

  • Supporting low-income community solar demonstration projects
  • Incorporating PV into its weatherization program
  • Promoting utility investment in low-income PV programs.

This report outlines the CEO strategy, including why the agency pursued the strategy, how it was carried out, and lessons learned during its implementation. The report concludes with a roadmap other states might consider when developing their own low-income PV programs.

Key Findings

CEO's strategy may result in approximately 20 megawatts of low-income PV deployment in Colorado by the end of 2019. The implementation of this strategy offers several key lessons:

  • The community solar demonstration showed that 100% low-income community solar projects can offer meaningful electricity bill savings for subscribers.
  • CEO's successful integration of PV into its weatherization program reveals how a state can leverage federal funding to support low-income rooftop PV projects.
  • CEO's efforts to promote utility investment in low-income PV shows how this partnership can significantly expand market impact.

Although CEO's strategy was tailored to the unique needs of Colorado, other states might learn from the state's experience when they design their own programs. The report concludes with a roadmap that other states might consider when adopting their own low-income programs (see figure below).

A circular figure displays the five steps in a comprehensive low-income PV strategy. Step 1: Analyze Energy Burden and PV Potential. Step 2: Consider Financing Options. Step 3: Develop Program Design. Step 4: Seek Approval. Step 5: Implement and Learn from Pilots. Step 6: Assess Impact and Next Steps.

The roadmap for developing a comprehensive low-income PV strategy has six steps.

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