Vote Solar engaged Sustainable Capital Advisors (“SCA”) to develop a framework for inclusive solar finance with the goal of identifying interventions (policy, market and others) that can expand access to solar products for all customers, particularly low-Income and/or low credit score customers (“target customers”). In constructing this report, SCA conducted approximately 60 hours of interviews with thought leaders and expert practitioners in the solar and finance sectors to identify barriers, solutions and overall perspectives related to increasing solar access. Interviewees represented the entire solar ecosystem including developers, installers, financiers (commercial, investment, community and green banks), impact investors, foundations, policymakers, housing agencies, utilities and consumers. In addition to the interviewees, the research team reviewed publicly available information including articles, journals and documents produced by professors, economists, private banks, state agencies, not-for-profits, and others in order to develop a comprehensive view of the solar finance market.
Based on the collective research, SCA has developed this framework report which identifies barriers that contribute to limiting access to low-income and/or low credit score customers for solar products, while proposing potential market and policy interventions that will expand opportunities for our target customers. The report is meant to reflect a broad “how-to” guide for implementing inclusive solar finance projects, outlining how all members of the ecosystem can contribute to expanding solar access. Solar policy and market economics vary dramatically across the United States. As a result, it is nearly impossible to find solutions that will perfectly transfer everywhere, so this report focuses on the broadest set of barriers and interventions that could be applied throughout the country. While there is interest in tackling issues related to increasing diversity of stakeholders and participants (customers, employees, and businesses) in the solar industry, the report focuses solely on the market and policy interventions related to making financing options available to our target customers residing in all communities including, urban, suburban, rural, tribal and other. Lastly, this report is not intended to be exhaustive in its content and insights but rather should be viewed as a tool to further the conversation and accelerate opportunities on the ground.