(The Act), effective October 8, 2016, established the District of Columbia’s Solar for All Program (Solar for All). The Act intends to expand DC’s solar capacity, to increase the amount of solar generated within the District, and to provide the benefits of locally-generated solar energy to low-income households, small businesses, nonprofits, and seniors. Funded by the Renewable Energy Development Fund and administered by DOEE, Solar for All’s specific targets are to provide the benefits of solar electricity to 100,000 low-income households (at or below 80% Area Median Income), and to reduce their energy bills by 50% (based on the 2016 residential rate class average) by 2032.
In late 2016, DOEE established the Solar for All Task Force, comprising 13 solar professionals in the private and nonprofit sectors, including solar development, affordable housing, and green workforce. The Task Force was formed to recommend ways to effectively design and implement Solar for All. DOEE also released two Requests for Information (RFI) to solicit ideas from industry professionals and the general public on developing a long-term solar program in the District. Informed by Solar for All Task Force recommendations and feedback from the two RFIs, DOEE submitted its Solar for All Implementation Plan to the Council of the District of Columbia in early 2017.
As described in the Implementation Plan, DOEE will implement Solar for All in five three-year phases to ensure the program is sufficiently flexible to adapt to market changes and overcome barriers. The initial implementation phase (FY17-FY19) will include development of 30 to 60 MW of solar capacity, subject to funding availability. This phase will also focus on researching and developing the solutions necessary to execute large-scale projects in subsequent implementation phases. Much of this work is being completed through strategic external and inter-agency partnerships and Solar for All Innovation and Expansion Grants.
Solar for All Innovation and Expansion Grants
In February 2017, DOEE announced two Requests for Applications (RFA) for $13.2 million in Solar for All Innovation and Expansion Grants. The RFA guidelines focus on research and development and seek to address four overarching program goals: (1) to expand solar energy in the District; (2) to provide benefits to low-income residents; (3) to develop solutions to program challenges; and (4) and to identify solutions DOEE can use to establish the most effective, predictable, and stable medium-term program. The RFA guidelines required projects to address at least one of these five core barriers:
Acquiring access to potential project sites by tailoring incentives to the respective project site owners/lessors;
Addressing competition for access to roof space due to conflicting incentives or requirements
Acquiring low-income customers, educating eligible residents and building owners, and managing community solar subscriptions;
Providing solar power benefits to low-income residents who do not receive electric bills (e.g., master-metered building residents)
Sharing the energy and other financial benefits (SRECs and ITC) associated with the installation of new solar energy systems with low-income residents
The RFAs also encouraged project proposals to address these additional barriers:
Incorporating electric or thermal storage for efficiency and/or resiliency;
Combining solar installation with energy efficiency measures;
Achieving net-zero energy through solar;
Utilizing atypical spaces (e.g., road barriers, brownfields, or windows) for solar installations;
Providing District residents with comprehensive solar job training while installing new solar systems;
Incorporating technologies, such as smart inverters, to add value to the distribution grid; and
Designing the solar PV system to reduce the distribution system’s peak demand.