By Zaid Ashai, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

This past summer, it appeared that the U.S. would fail to act on climate change during the Biden Presidency. But today, with the recent passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, CHIPs Act, and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rethink how we power our lives. A carbon-free economy is within reach and the massive build-out of new energy infrastructure is already underway, but making this transition swiftly is not all that matters. For the new clean energy landscape to stand the test of time, everyone must have equity, starting with the communities facing the highest costs of our fossil-based economy. What we do today will determine our success tomorrow, and Nexamp is here to make sure we do it for all.

Building Equality

Our community solar farms are built for everyone. You don’t need to own your home, there’s no need to install or manage solar panels, and all you need is a Nexamp subscription to benefit from 10–20 percent annual electricity savings. This equitable solution works almost anywhere, but it’s especially needed on the frontlines of climate change. Low-to-moderate-income communities are facing heat islands, increased air pollution, and often a higher risk of natural disasters. According to energy affordability data, the energy burden of low-income households is also three times higher than their high-income counterparts. If we are going to mitigate the worsening effects of climate change, this trajectory needs to change.

Reflection & Action

Historically, underfunded communities have not benefited from times of great transition. Rather, previous revolutions have increased and exacerbated inequity. These mistakes cannot be made again. No matter how insurmountable the issues of climate change and racial and economic injustice may seem, we have an opportunity to do something about it constructively. Step one is reflection, step two is action. To ensure the next-generation energy system is truly just and equal, we need to understand why the current one is not.

As a member of Vote Solar’s Access & Equity Advisory Committee (AEAC), I was proud to participate in a workshop focused on lowering the barriers to community solar enrollment in low-income communities. Together, we identified two solutions: financial support for community outreach and automatic enrollment in community solar programs. Nexamp supports both, but we don’t deliver alone. We work with community organizations, community action agencies, the National CAP agency, and affordable housing providers to distribute the benefits of renewable power equally.

As of today, we’re operating community solar farms in Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, Illinois, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Maine; and we’re also looking to expand in areas like New Mexico, Virginia, and Hawaii. Many of our solar farms have reserved low-income capacity, including projects that exclusively serve low-income households in Illinois. We’re empowering communities to own their energy and supporting a habitable life on Earth in the process. We hope to build on the success we’ve had in these states and expand the reach of community solar across the country.

Community Outreach

This industry is still fairly new. Many people don’t understand what a community solar farm is, let alone what it could do for their utility bill. To engage and educate new customers, we work with local leadership to co-create outreach materials, while prioritizing consumer protection and privacy. We follow up with interested parties and benefit greatly from each household enrolled. Of course, we cover any expenses for this process and offer referral payments. This unlocks an unrestricted revenue stream that further supports our partner’s communities. Marcfirst, an organization dedicated to bettering the lives of individuals with disabilities, is both a Nexamp subscriber and a partner. “As volunteers, parents, and Board members, we take Marcfirst’s leadership fiduciary responsibility seriously. It’s wonderful that thousands of dollars are being saved on electricity costs and expenses are down, but the real wow factor is that those funds can be used to help existing beneficiaries more effectively as well as extend services to more of our community.”

Nexamp has also joined forces with ComEd to launch Give-A-Ray, a 15-year program that allows low-to-moderate income households to receive community solar credits for free from a Nexamp solar farm in Rockford, Illinois. Building on what once was a city landfill, this solar farm is the first such project in Illinois that delivers the full value of the community solar bill credits to the consumer for free. The program serves low-income residents of Ogle and Winnebago counties, and eligible customers can earn credits to offset up to 75 percent of their average annual energy usage. This translates to about $250 in savings every year.

Streamlined Enrollment

The successful transition to a clean energy future is imperative, and there’s no time like the present to do it right — inviting everyone to share in the benefits. Since the inception of Nexamp’s community solar program, it has been open to all, with no credit checks, sign-up fees, or long-term contracts. Neither income nor credit scores will be barriers to a Nexamp community solar farm subscription. Rather, if customers are already participating in social benefit programs like LIHEAP and/or SNAP, Nexamp has the capacity to streamline enrollment. Our partners can verify eligibility to make the process as simple and seamless as possible.

Long-Term Community Investment

We’re building a future-proof solution that’s equitable and just. It’s what drew me to Nexamp nearly 13 years ago, and it’s why I stay. There is always room to grow, but every day Nexamp is lowering the barriers to community solar enrollment in low-to-moderate-income communities. By listening, communicating, and streamlining support, we’re showcasing how the transition to a clean energy future should be done; in a fair, inclusive, and equitable manner.