The following blog is a featured post written by By Benjamin Michaels, Clean Air – Cool Planet Summer Fellow.
Happy Fourth of July! As of today, the Clean Air – Cool Planet’s summer fellows have reached the halfway points of our projects. I am currently operating out of CA-CP’s New Canaan, Connecticut office and my project for this summer is to help research and develop a program in Connecticut that will use aggregation strategies and discounted, tiered pricing to encourage groups of homeowners to install solar thermal and energy efficiency technologies in their homes.
I started by exploring existing community aggregation projects and specifically programs being implemented in Connecticut. This led me to the Groundswell Community Power Project in Washington D.C. where I spoke to Sam Witherbee, a former CA-CP organizer. Then, I explored the Solarize CT program currently in its Pilot stages. The Solarize program started in Portland, Oregon and was so successful that it has been replicated in several places, most recently Massachusetts and now Connecticut.
As The Solarize Guidebook states, the Solarize model was created to, “overcome the financial and logistical hurdles of installing solar power.” Typically, installing solar panels can be a daunting task for a homeowner because of the high cost, the complexity of the technology that requires an individual to make decisions they often do not know much about, and the difficulty of overcoming the inertia of being the first person in a neighborhood to install PV on his or her roof. Solarize tackles these problems by utilizing community organizations and creating a system by which the community takes the steps involved in a solar installation together. “Solar 101” workshops educate the community while Community Volunteers lead a competitive bid process to select a contractor to complete the projects. Participants achieve cost savings through aggregate buying power as well as a tiered pricing system giving incentive to encouraging your neighbors to join the program. Finally, the Solarize program is a limited-time offer creating a sense of urgency.
While the initial program as well as many successive programs have been highly successful, one of the major shortfalls is that for many of the people who show initial interest, photovoltaic solar panels are not a feasible option possibly due to roof direction or shading. In the Solarize Massachusetts Solarize Overview, it states, “ Volunteers also felt it was important to find a way to engage interested community members with non-feasible sites, such as through energy efficiency or solar hot water…”
This is where my project fits in. With support from the Clean Energy Finance Center (CEFC) and Connecticut’s Green Bank, the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA) I have been performing research on the current state of the Solar Thermal and Energy Efficiency markets in Connecticut. In recent weeks, I have been meeting and speaking with industry leaders in these two different markets and discussing the feasibility of working either or both of them into the Solarize model. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by NGO Sustainability, Peter Yazbak, the Outreach Coordinator for Congressman Jim Himes, and Dan Esty, commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) in Connecticut.
That’s all for now!