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CleanPowerSF Wins Community Impact Award for Innovative Solar Program

The CleanPowerSF team accepting the Community Impact Award at the California Community Choice Association's annual conference.
  • Jackie Randazzo

Last week, CleanPowerSF was awarded a Community Impact Award for its innovative program addressing a cost-barrier for low-income solar customers.  

The Solar Inverter Replacement Program is the first of its kind in California and helps CleanPowerSF customers with low incomes replace their solar inverter – an expensive, but key component for rooftop solar installations. The award was announced at the California Community Choice Association’s (CalCCA) annual conference on April 18 in San Jose. It was accepted by Rosie Scott, Utility Analyst, Power Customer Programs, SFPUC Power Enterprise.

Watch our video about the Solar Inverter Replacement Program that debuted at the conference below.

Why the Solar Inverter Program

Households with low incomes face disproportionally high energy burdens. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), on average, households with low incomes spend 8.1% of their income on energy costs compared to 2.3% for non-low-income households.  

For the past fifteen years, the SFPUC has implemented the GoSolarSF program, which has distributed nearly $30 million and incentivized the construction of approximately 6,000 solar installations. These installations have helped reduce the energy equity divide, helping many customers with low incomes throughout San Francisco save on their electricity bills.

However, one of the hidden costs of solar is the investment required to maintain the system over time. A solar inverter is one of the most important pieces of equipment in a solar energy system. Over time, inverters need to be replaced. Yet, the high cost presents barriers for many rooftop-solar owners with low incomes.  

To address this cost-barrier, the SFPUC designed and launched the Solar Inverter Replacement Program to help qualifying CleanPowerSF customers maintain their GoSolarSF solar installation by providing direct financial assistance for system inspections, inverter replacements, and repairs.

The Program’s Impact on Customers and San Francisco

Since its inception in August 2021, the program has enrolled 171 households with low incomes in need of solar repairs and upgrades. This program ensures that CleanPowerSF customers can continue to see lower electricity bills as a benefit of their solar systems, while helping San Francisco realize its 100% renewable electricity goal.

With changes to rules regarding rooftop solar installations and their billing setup (also known as Net Energy Metering) and rising PG&E and power market costs, CleanPowerSF’s Solar Inverter Replacement Program is more important than ever.

Planning for a Clean Energy Future

As we continue to work towards a clean energy future, the SFPUC and other utilities will need to grapple with the lifecycle needs of clean energy systems and appliances, especially as we encourage the installation of newer technologies.

Promoting an equitable transition to greater electrification requires us to design innovative solutions to ensure that the economic and environmental benefits of the clean energy transition continue to reach customers who need it most.