Installing solar panels

Going solar can provide lower energy bills, but the homeowners who need those savings the most are also the least likely to invest in solar energy.

Kerry O’Neill ran residential energy programs at Connecticut Green Bank.

O’Neill: “In the middle of 2014 our board asked us to take a look at how we were doing in terms of getting solar into low income communities and when we looked at the data, wow, we just were not doing a good job at all. We were really missing the mark.”

So the bank launched two programs that are now run through Inclusive Prosperity Capital, a clean energy investment fund that was spun off from the bank.

One program offers affordable leases for solar with no upfront cost. The other pays an incentive to solar contractors for installing systems for low- and moderate-income households. So companies can offer lower prices to these customers.

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The programs worked. Now, homeowners making less than the state’s median income install solar at the same rates as those with higher incomes.

O’Neill: “We’ve closed the gap. Outside the state, everyone’s like, how did you do that? It seems impossible! Well, it’s actually not impossible, but you have to focus on it. You have to say, this is a goal and this is something we’re trying to solve.”

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Jan Ellen Spiegel

Jan Ellen Spiegel is a long-time Connecticut-based journalist whose career has included radio, television, print, and digital reporting. She has won awards for her reporting on energy, environment, climate...