The CCEP was initially founded on a subscriber model, allowing residents living nearby clean energy projects to pay a discounted rate for bill credits associated with the electricity generation resulting from these projects. This approach uncovered several barriers to community energy projects, specifically those with a mission to provide access for all, regardless of economic status. One major barrier was the lack of funding available from traditional financing entities to fund construction of equity-based projects that would be supported by individual subscribers, although there is no evidence that enrollees in these programs are more likely to default on their subscription payments. The fact that many low-income people do not have access to credit cards or mortgages, resulting in low or no credit score history, further exacerbated the difficulty in financing such projects.
Another barrier related to clean energy projects was the unstable market conditions caused by the caps placed on net metering for each utility load zone. These caps have been met in many areas, making it difficult to attain the full financial value for electricity produced by mid-sized renewable technologies. This barrier has been somewhat mitigated for solar somewhat due to the adoption of the SMART tariff in Massachusetts but persists for other technologies such as wind and anaerobic digestion.
Uncovering these barriers provided insight into alternative approaches to project development and continues to inform our work as we support changes in policies and regulations that provide a more just and equitable access for all in the clean energy transition.
The CCEP has evolved to address these barriers by developing innovative approaches to drive local clean energy resources that focus on facilitating the involvement of local businesses to work with low income serving institutions and utilizing state and federal funding to move projects through the development pipeline. Our mission and vision has not changed – we continue to adhere to our foundational principles of exploring promising new technologies and project models, expanding local clean energy generation, emphasizing energy efficiency, and clearing the obstacles to participation for our economically disadvantaged neighbors.