• Accelerating LMI Access to Solar: Preliminary Project Finance Research Findings

    The LIFT project reports on preliminary project finance findings from early data collection. The paper notes trends and patterns marking community solar finance - namely, that due to tax code and state or local regulations, nearly every solar project is financed with unique structures.

  • Analysis of Solar Project Finance Research

    Most community solar projects serving LMI households are financed in the same ways as mainstream community solar projects. The research shares trends in community solar financing, primarily considering the minority of projects that still have barriers to LMI inclusion to understand why these exist and best practices for overcoming them.

  • Analyzing Rural Energy Burdens in Georgia

    Georgia’s statewide average energy burden for low and moderate-income households is 19.4%. Rural counties across Georgia carry the heaviest energy burdens across income brackets - driven by rural poverty, unemployment, and the prevalence of older, single-family rental housing.

  • Analyzing Rural Energy Burdens in North Carolina

    North Carolina’s statewide average energy burden for low and moderate-income households is 19.8% — significantly above the 6% threshold that is widely agreed upon as delineating high energy burdens. Rural counties across North Carolina carry the heaviest energy burdens across all income brackets - driven by energy inefficient housing and an increasing number of cooling degree and heating degree days in the region.

  • Applying the PAYS® System

    The LIFT Solar Everywhere research project has developed a three-part research report to determine whether and how the PAYS® system for tariffed on-bill investment could make on-site solar systems available to low- and moderate-income (LMI) customers.

  • Customer Experience for Low- and Moderate-Income Community Solar Subscribers

    Of the 450+ community solar projects serving LMI households, the LIFT Team surveyed 17 to gather insights on LMI subscribers’ sentiments and satisfaction levels with these projects and community solar generally.

  • Energy Impoverishment and Energy Insecurity in the United States

    Equitable energy distribution has long been an issue of concern when studying the prevalence of high energy burdens, as not many low-income households benefit from energy-efficiency programs that are designed to reduce economic hardship and poverty. Despite energy abundance in the US and the propagation of energy efficiency programs and weatherization policies, low-income households continue to pay high energy bills while their environmental, social, and economic conditions have eroded.

  • LMI Customer Experience Benchmarking Analysis

    LIFT Solar benchmarking research of existing LMI clean energy and resource efficiency programs to assess customer experience and financial performance at the program or project level.

  • Modeling Inclusive Utility Investments in On-Site Solar

    LIFT Solar Everywhere explores methods to accelerate access to solar for LMI homeowners. This white paper provides descriptive documentation for the Pay As You Save (PAYS®) financial model as well as four illustrative examples with input assumptions that vary based on geography, utility type, electricity cost, and other factors.

  • The Growth of U.S. Community Solar Serving Low- and Moderate-Income Households

    Community solar is one of the fastest growing segments of the solar industry, within which, community solar serving LMI households is growing the fastest, at an average rate of 46% year over year since 2011. LMI households are an important and viable segment of the community solar market, with similar growth, financial performance, and customer motivations.

Best Practices

A full set of all the LMI community solar best practices is available in a downloadable PDF.

Download Best Practices

  • Asset Depreciation (MACRS)

    The modified accelerated cost recovery system (MACRS) is a depreciation system used for tax purposes in the United States. MACRS depreciation allows the capitalized cost of an asset to be recovered over a specified period via annual tax deductions. These incentives only work if the entity that makes the investment is a taxable entity and has a sufficient tax liability. Current rules also allow a bonus depreciation, which allows all of the cost basis to be recovered in a single year. If you are developing a community solar project and are not familiar with the depreciation rules and processes, consult a tax attorney.

    Solar Energy Industry Association: Depreciation of Solar Energy Property in MACRS

  • Corporate Social Bond

    Social Bonds are essentially debt securities, the proceeds of which are used to finance projects that achieve positive social outcomes or address specific social issues. The debt terms are intended to be more favorable than loans available through typical financial markets and may offer financing to entities that are otherwise difficult to finance. 

    International Capital Markets Association: Social Bond Principals

  • Investment Tax Credit

    The Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is a federal tax incentive for business or residential investment in renewable energy generation systems that can be applied to solar installations. The ITC lets individuals or businesses deduct a certain percentage of their installation costs from any tax liability they have. This credit is in addition to normal allowances for asset depreciation. It only works if the entity that makes the investment is a taxable entity and has sufficient tax liability. As of the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in August 2022, the ITC provides a credit valued at 30% of the cost of installation. It is set to reduce in value after 2032. The basis for the 30% now includes not just the installation and equipment associated with a solar array, but can include interconnection costs, as well as battery storage costs and more. If you are developing a community solar project and are not familiar with the ITC rules and process, consult a tax attorney.

  • Local Incentives

    Some municipalities or counties offer incentives for solar installations, including property tax exemptions, streamlined permitting, rebates, or other incentives based on system capacity or energy production. Every county or municipality has their own framework for incentivizing (or disincentivizing) solar installation. They also have authority to set ordinances that set the requirements for how, when, and where solar can be installed.

  • New Markets Tax Credits

    New Markets Tax Credits and Opportunity Zones allow private individuals and corporate investors to receive a tax credit against their federal income tax in exchange for making equity investments in low-income communities. New Market and Opportunity Zones are geographic designations. These are separate programs with separate designation and eligibility requirements. But they have common approaches. The New Markets program requires that specialized financial intermediaries called Community Development Entities (CDEs) develop projects that serve qualified low-income communities. The credit totals 39% of the original investment amount and is claimed over a period of seven years. This provides a significant incentive for these investments. There are complexities in qualifying as CDEs and investments only qualify in some communities, but these credits can be layered over other incentives, making the value stack attractive.

    IRS Opportunity Zone FAQ 

    Community Development Financial Institutions Fund: New Markets Tax Credit Program

    IRS New Markets Detailed Guidance

  • No-cost Site Lease

    In some instances, project developers can negotiate a no-cost site lease. This is common when state or local governments or institutions sponsor a community solar program. These entities may have rooftop space or vacant parcels suitable for solar installation. While no-cost land leases do not lower upfront investment costs, they can lower ongoing operating costs.

  • Philanthropic and Corporate Grants

    Private foundations or corporations provide grants for renewable energy development. Grants may be offered geographically or to specific segments of the population, especially low- and moderate-income, BIPOC, and environmental justice communities. Many foundations are focused on climate and equity, providing significant opportunities to fund community solar projects that serve these communities. Most foundations publish Requests for Proposals (RFPs) that announce project eligibility requirements, funding limits, as well as the requirements and timelines for submitting your proposal. 


  • Public Funding/Crowdsourcing

    In this model, donations or investments are sourced from individuals or organizations, usually consisting of small donations from many donors. New community and crowdsourced financing models for solar will expand the availability of cheap capital -- if regulatory risk can be cleared.

  • Renewable Energy Certificate (RECs)

    A renewable energy certificate, - the term is interchangeable with renewable energy credit - or REC, is a market-based instrument that represents the property rights to the environmental, social, and other non-power attributes of renewable electricity generation. RECs are issued when one megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity is generated and delivered to the electricity grid from a renewable energy resource. The importance of RECs is that they can be sold independently of the power being generated. In some markets, legislators require utilities to buy RECs at set costs (compliance markets). Where states do not have statutory REC programs, RECs can be sold on the voluntary market, typically for significantly less. 

    Environmental Protection Agency: State Solar Renewable Energy Certificate Markets
    Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency

  • State and Federal Grants or Funding

    State and Federal governments may have grant programs for infrastructure or for renewable energy projects specifically. For example, state grant programs like the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation Grants or federal programs like the USDA - Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and Tribal Energy Program grants from The U.S. Department of Energy offer funding specifically  for solar development.

    U.S. Program Management Office: 

    U.S. Department of Energy: Funding Opportunities Grants and Technical Assistance
    LetsGoSolar: Solar Energy Grants, Loans and Mortgages


  • State Incentives

    Many states offer incentives for solar and other renewables, including rebates, grants, tax credits, RECs, or other incentives. These incentives are typically based on the projected system capacity or energy production from qualified renewable generation systems. In some markets they take the form of rebates or a lump sum value for qualified system types. There are several resources available that catalog these incentives by state and by type. These are a good place to start. Otherwise, contact your state’s Energy Office or Dept. of Economic Opportunity to learn more about what is available for your project.


    EnergySage: Solar rebates and incentives
    NC Clean Energy Technology Center: Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency

  • State or Municipal Bonds

    State and local governments, as well as some institutions like universities and hospitals, can issue debt in the form of bonds to finance large capital projects. These public bonds can be used to finance solar developments when approved by local governments or institutions. The tax liability for specific bond issues will vary based on local rules, needs, and the requirements for securing those bonds. Bond issues for solar are most often used when the issuing entity is the system owner or program authority. For agencies of government who are looking to develop community solar, legislators or governing bodies can be consulted on the viability of a bond issuance.

  • Tax Equity Investment

    If the entity that is building the community solar system is not a taxable entity or does not have a sufficient tax liability, tax equity investment can be used to extend the tax liability of a third-party to the project. The taxable entity will make the investment to build the community solar array and will own that system for a period that allows for full asset depreciation (usually six years). The system is then transferred to the original system developer, less fees taken by the tax equity investor. In this way, the tax incentives can be monetized and reduce the cost of installation. 

    The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in August of 2022 may impact the structure and financial returns of a tax equity investment. Non-taxable system owners should consider carefully if a direct payment option for the ITC, selling the ITC, or a traditional tax equity investment will provide them the most benefit in terms of financial returns, timing of payment, and transactional ease.

    Congressional Research Service: Tax Equity Financing: An Introduction and Policy Considerations
    Clean Energy FInance Forum: The Way Forward: Direct Pay and the Future of Tax Equity

  • Utility Incentives

    Incentives for solar installation or production may be available through utilities. These incentives are most often mandated through specific legislation or regulations to incent the installation of solar. These can include rebates, incentives for installation or production, and net metering.