11.13.20 - Roanoke Electric's SolarShare + Pay As You Save®
Curtis Wynn, President and Chief Executive Officer of Roanoke Electric Cooperative, answers a question about REC’s
Roanoke Electric’s SolarShare + Upgrade to $ave PAYS Program
One thing all us PAYS Pals love about PAYS is that it’s accessible to ALL people. However, that doesn’t mean it’s accessible (at least right away) to all structures. Homes that have structural issues that call into question their long term habitability (e.g. leaky roofs, cracked foundations, mold) aren’t approved for a PAYS upgrade because there isn’t certainty they will remain occupied for the entire cost-recovery period. Potential participants whose homes require structural, health, and/or safety repairs are not “disqualified” from PAYS, rather paused pending repairs. But for many this pause is permanent because the residents are among the 40% of U.S. households that can’t afford an unexpected $400 expense let alone the multi-thousand dollar cost of a new roof or foundation.
This problem has been particularly acute for Roanoke Electric Cooperative, where 40% of member-owner inquiries for Upgrade to $ave are deferred because of structural or health and safety problems with the building.
In an effort to speed up and scale these H&S repairs to accelerate reentry in U2$, REC created the SolarShare Initiative. SolarShare sought philanthropic support for low and moderate income (LMI) participation in community solar so that LMI members can receive a low or no cost subscription with an immediate credit. By earning credits from solar panel subscriptions, co-op members have the leverage to pay for needed health and safety repairs at their homes. These repairs prepare the home for full participation in the cooperative’s energy-efficiency financing program. Panel ownership discontinues when the tariff ends, and is then instituted for another member so as to share the benefit among member-owners as broadly as possible.
This Solarshare program offers many additional benefits beyond it’s synergies with Upgrade to $ave, including:
Increased LMI access to lower energy bills through solar,
Benefits of large scale solar installments and revenue to minority landowners,
REC energy cost stability through demand and wholesale costs reductions,
A cleaner grid that helps the generation and transmission cooperative (NCEMC) meet its renewable energy portfolio goals.
Other NRECA member cooperatives have joined REC in deploying innovative solar programs that expand access to everyone, including LMI members. In fact, 5 other coops Anza Electric Cooperative in California, Oklahoma Electric Cooperative in Norman, Orcas Power & Light Cooperative in Eastsound, Washington; BARC Electric Cooperative in Millboro, Virginia; and Kit Carson Electric Cooperative in Taos, New Mexico won DOE funding for their “Achieving Cooperative Community Equitable Solar Sources (ACCESS) project” that will examine what program design elements work best and develop resources to share with other co-ops across the country.