National Grid Seeks Approval to Expand Access to Distributed Solar

National Grid has filed a proposal to expand access to solar energy and provide annual bill discounts to 20,000 low-income customers in Massachusetts.

Solar-powered generation is a vital part of the strategy to meet Massachusetts’ clean energy goals. While many customers benefit from the savings of rooftop solar, not every customer has the means or ability to install solar panels on their home.

Community Shared Solar is a part of the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program, and it enables customers to lower their bills through local solar projects without having to install solar panels on their property. 

To date, low-income customers have had limited access to the monetary benefits available from participating in solar projects. As of December 2020, less than five percent of solar capacity in the SMART program serves low-income customers. The company’s Solar Access Initiative, which is pending review from the state Department of Public Utilities (DPU), seeks to make clean energy more accessible to low-income customers. 

“No matter their income level, all of our customers should share in the benefits of distributed solar,” said Marcy Reed, president of National Grid in Massachusetts. “With this proposal, we are demonstrating our commitment to offering fair and affordable solutions as we drive toward our clean energy future.” 

The Solar Access Initiative aims to expand access to Community Shared Solar projects by eliminating the need for customer credit checks through a new Solar Simplified Billing program.  In addition, National Grid will launch a Solar Enrollment Program exclusively available to low-income customers that will provide approximately $240 in annual bill discounts.  

•Solar Simplified Billing

The owners of many Community Shared Solar projects screen applicants using credit scores to reduce the risk of late payments. This significantly limits the pool of customers who can qualify to participate. National Grid’s Solar Simplified Billing eliminates the need for credit checks by guaranteeing on-time payments to project owners. 

•Solar Enrollment Program

National Grid’s Solar Enrollment Program will simplify the process for low-income customers to sign up for Community Shared Solar projects. The program will offer a month-to-month subscription, no sign-up or cancellation fees, and an electricity bill discount of approximately $240 per year.

Residential customers enrolled in National Grid’s low-income rate will be eligible to participate. National Grid expects that the program will serve up to 20,000 low-income customers.

National Grid will contract with and match low-income participants to Community Shared Solar projects. The contracted projects will not have to conduct their own customer billing or recruitment, reducing their costs and making more bill discounts available to the low-income participants. 

National Grid is committed to being a responsible business partner, delivering sustainable energy safely, reliably and affordably, ensuring no one gets left behind. If approved by the DPU, the Solar Access Initiative would go into effect in early 2022.

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