Rhode Island Low-and-Moderate Income Research Survey

 

Background

In order to ensure that OER's outreach initiatives are effective in supporting LMI customer access to Rhode Island's community solar opportunities, OER conducted an online survey of A60 customers in partnership with National Grid. The survey was reviewed by the Office of Sustainability for the City of Providence, the Racial and Environmental Justice Committee (REJC) of Providence, Green Energy Consumers Alliance and CESA. It was reviewed, edited, programmed, hosted and distributed via email by National Grid. OER then hired a consultant to do the survey on behalf of National Grid. The focus of the survey was to gather information about the degree of awareness regarding community solar, interest in participating in community solar, best ways to connect with LMI customers and information regarding a need for an LMI carveout.

Why did we do this Study?

Consumers can potentially save money over time by using solar power to generate electricity in their homes. The initial cost of installing a solar system, home design complications, rental unit barriers and lack of access to information all present barriers, especially for lower income households. With the current initiatives and programs available for savings on energy bills, this study was done in order to support LMI customer access to Rhode Island's community solar opportunities. 

Why is this Study Important?

When asked interest level in energy savings and clean energy options, most respondents (33%) ranked energy efficiency highest, with clean energy options and community solar ranking second and third, respectively. This indicates potential benefits to coupling a discussion of community solar with energy saving initiatives to provide more robust energy saving opportunities to A-60 customers. It offers an opportunity to be proactive in that all consumers can participate in clean energy. 

According to the survey findings, 74% of customers worry about energy costs. High energy costs can result in spending a disproportionate amount of income on utility bills, as there is a lack of access to capital for LMI customers. This is a key element of the study because it suggests that LMI customers stand to gain the most from community solar, and can provide a foundation for future LMI solar carve-out policies. Conclusions from the study also showed that even though respondents had little information about solar, many of them have an interest in learning and potentially participating in community solar and other energy saving initiatives. As a result, increasing community outreach programs would be effective and can provide more information about community solar. This study provides a useful snapshot of A-60 customers' interest and can provide a foundation for future carve out policies.

To access to the full Rhode Island Low-and-Moderate Income Research Survey: Office of Energy Resources, click this PDF link.