GRID Alternatives Tri-State is a non-profit dedicated to providing access to solar energy to low-income households in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. A newly created program known as Community Distributed Generation (CDG) wherein a single solar system may serve multiple subscribers, could make it easier for low-income households to obtain renewable energy and reduce their monthly energy costs. Despite being a priority in Governor Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative, development of CDG projects in New York State has been extremely limited to date.

Through a detailed literature review, comparative policy analysis, financial modeling exercise and analysis, and expert interviews with a broad range of stakeholders, the Capstone team diagnosed barriers to access to solar energy for low-income households, including limited access to capital, subscriber acquisition challenges, program design flaws, and siting issues. Using an open-source modeling software and the team’s own customized decision-making tool, the team analyzed the economics of different CDG project types and tested the relative impacts and cost-effectiveness of improved incentive and financing structures on low-income adoption. Based on these quantitative and qualitative analyses, the Capstone team issued industry best practices and targeted policy recommendations that are immediately responsive to the priorities identified by State policymakers in recent Orders.