Solar energy companies have begun tapping into low- and middle-income communities.
Thanks to an increased support from nonprofits and a drop in manufacturing costs, clean energy is becoming more available to everyone. A recent article by OZY highlights this increase in availability.
The cost of solar panel manufacturing in 1975 was $101 per watt. According to OZY, this number has dropped to $0.44 per watt in 2016. This decrease has been instrumental in making solar panels more accessible to low-income families, even as the industry's government funding has experienced cuts.
Accelerators like Elemental Excelerator (EEx), a clean-energy focused nonprofit partnered with social change organization Emerson Collective, are encouraging a burst of startups in the clean energy field. EEx partners with new companies that focus on low-income and rural communities and uses philanthropic organizations to help find funding. Companies like "Pono Home, a Hawaiian B Corporation offering homes and businesses energy-efficient device installations," can prosper through EEx's support, and OZY reported that EEx has given $22 million to more than 60 organizations to date.
Another organization that is paving the way for more accessible clean energy is GRID Alternatives. GRID Alternatives is a nonprofit providing solar energy to low-income communities in cities across the U.S. This year, they were selected by the California Public House Utilities Commission (CPHUC) as the program manager for CPHUC's Single-family Affordable Solar Homes incentive program. Through this program, GRID can provide community outreach, education, and funding for its clean-energy initiative. CPHUC is part of California's larger state-wide plan to install 50 megawatts of solar power in disadvantaged communities by 2021. Installing solar panels in these communities can lead to $80-$100 in savings per month for families, which can accumulate to about $40,500 in savings over a system's lifetime. Such savings can make a real difference in families' lives.
Other states are taking note and following suit with similar clean-energy initiatives. OZY's article notes that "there are at least 35 programs nationwide aimed specifically at providing affordable clean energy to low-income communities," and this number is growing. OZY's report explains that while "drastic cuts to the 2019 budget for renewable energy research" are being proposed, clean energy companies remain optimistic. By increasing these programs' awareness, corporations hope to entice both public and private funding to expand upon their established successes. Reaching out to previously untapped markets like low-income communities is one of many steps towards a more easily accessible clean energy future.