A new study from GTM Research found that the U.S. community solar market could grow up to 50-80 times its current size by 2030 to 57-84 GW. This equates to serving nearly nine million new solar customers, including four million low-to-moderate income households, and amounting to $120 billion in capital investments. “The Vision for U.S. Community Solar: A Roadmap to 2030,” which was produced for the non-profit group Vote Solar in partnership with GRID Alternatives and the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA), also informs state policy recommendations for delivering on that enormous and largely untapped potential to serve American households and businesses with affordable and reliable solar power.
“Community solar is an important piece of a strong clean energy economy that benefits everyone, and the policy decisions taking place all across the country right now will determine how big it is and how fast we get there,” said Marta Tomic, Vote Solar’s community solar program director. “This research underscores the critical role that states have to play in unlocking the full potential of community solar by designing programs that translates low-cost solar power into tangible bill savings and other economic benefits for customers. We are ready to work with lawmakers and regulators across the country to design smart community solar programs that expand solar access to all customers, build a more resilient electric grid, and create more good local jobs in the nation’s new energy economy.”
Affordable solar energy is giving families, businesses, schools and many others a way to lower energy bills and invest in America’s new energy economy. However, physical and financial barriers prevent up to 75 percent of consumers from going solar on their own rooftops – families who rent, have shaded rooftops, or don’t qualify for standard financing solutions, for example. Well-designed community solar programs give customers like these a way to go solar and save by enabling them to participate in a shared solar installation located somewhere else in their community and receive a credit on their utility bill for their share of the power produced. Thanks to pent up customer demand, community solar has become the fastest growing segment of the U.S. solar market with over one gigawatt of installed capacity nationwide, a number that could grow to 57-84 gigawatts by 2030 according to the new report.
By leveraging strong policies, business model innovation and continued cost reduction, community solar could reach millions of consumers that currently lack access to customer-sited solar options. With the right environment, community solar could provide over 2.5% of the nation’s total electricity consumption by 2030.
“The community solar model has tremendous potential to reduce energy costs and create value for low-income customers,” said Tom Figel, Policy & Regulatory Manager at GRID Alternatives. “This study shows that with the appropriate policies and support, community solar can create solar access for 50 million low-income customers, while driving significant economic opportunity and job creation for communities most in need.”
“This report makes it clear that community solar is ready to scale and play a meaningful role in our country’s overall energy mix. Industry stands ready to fulfill pent up customer demand and unlock the robust potential of local, clean community solar this report demonstrates is possible at scale,” said Jeff Cramer, Executive Director of Coalition for Community Solar Access. “Now we need state policymakers to enable smart community solar programs that bring tangible economic benefits and expand solar access to all customer types, from low-income families to major businesses. If they do, it will create a win-win-win for customers, the grid, and the environment.”
The report finds that, despite clear market opportunity, the model hasn’t yet achieved scale because only 19 states and the District of Columbia have statewide community solar policies and even fewer have well-designed policies that adequately serve the diverse market segments, including low-income customers, that stand to benefit most from cost savings and stable electric bills and opportunity to drive clean energy access and economic impact in their communities. Well-designed state policies and market-enabling programs that deliver tangible economic benefits to customer participants are key to successfully scaling the community solar market, which is itself a critical piece of the U.S. transition to a clean, smart and resilient grid.