Frequently Asked Questions
A community solar project is a large solar project shared by more than one household. Its primary purpose is to allow members of a community the opportunity to share the benefits of solar power even if they cannot install solar panels on their property. Project participants benefit from the electricity generated by the community solar farm, which costs less than the price they would ordinarily pay for electricity. Through community solar programs, renters, home-owners, municipalities and non-profits can participate in clean energy projects and save money on their monthly electricity bill.
There are five virtual net metering (VNM) community solar projects and twelve Community Remote Distributed Generation (CRDG) community solar projects for a total of seventeen projects. These projects are in various stages of development. Some are fully constructed and operational, while others are still under development.
A developer designs, builds, owns and operates a community solar project. They also secure any necessary financing, insurance and permits in order to begin construction on a project. Typically, developers work with subscription management companies in order to acquire subscribers.
A subscription management company helps solar developers find subscribers for their community solar projects. They can aid with a multi-channel marketing plan coupled with effective subscriber education content. Subscriber management companies also can provide flexible enrollment options and ongoing customer engagement, as well as customer service, billing and payment processing.
Yes, this program is intended for customers that are not able to participate in traditional rooftop solar. This includes renters and homeowners that are not able to place roof-top solar on their homes. In order to participate in community solar, you must have a National Grid electric bill.
If you move within National Grid's territory in Rhode Island, you may be able to move your subscription with you. If you move out of state or no longer wish to subscribe to your community solar project, check your contract terms for details. Some subscriber management companies or solar developers do not have a fee for cancellation.
There are a few questions you should ask before signing up for community solar.
- Is there a credit check required?
- What is the length of the term of the contract?
- Is there a cancellation fee?
- How long will it take to process the cancellation?
- Is there an email address or phone number for questions?
- What are the expected savings?
As with any contract, make sure to read it carefully and if you have questions, be sure to ask. Do some research regarding the company you are signing the contract with.
Warranties and insurance are the developer's responsibility, as you are subscribing to the service of the community solar program.
There are two community solar programs in Rhode Island - the Virtual Net Metering (VNM) program and Community Remote Distributed Generation (CRDG) program.
Virtual Net Metering is a bill crediting system for community solar that refers to when solar is not used on-site, but is instead externally installed and shared among subscribers. In this case, you receive credits on your electric bill for excess energy produced by your share of a solar garden. It offers weighted credits determined by your portion of the solar array, which helps you account for the kWh of energy that the solar panels are generating.
Community Remote Distributed Generation enables customers to receive a portion of the bill credit. CRDG applicants will receive Performance Based Incentive (PBI) payments in the form of bill credits. No more than fifty percent of the output by kWh generated by a project may be allocated to a single bill credit recipient. If monthly generation exceeds the sum of the recipients’ on-site usage, each subscriber will receive kWh allocation equal to on-site use. This program also allows for an anchor tenant, that may be commercial, for up to fifty percent of the project.
Both programs are offered to community solar developers through National Grid and provide net metering credits or bill credits to community solar program participants. Make sure to review your community solar contract carefully to review what savings on your electric bill you can expect and what type of credits you will receive.
You must live within National Grid's service territory to participate in community solar in Rhode Island.
Community Choice Aggregation (CEA) is a program that allows a municipality to procure electricity in bulk for residents and businesses, with the goal of increasing the renewable content of the electricity used by the entire community while keeping the supply rate stable and affordable. Barrington, Central Falls, Providence and South Kingstown have received approval from the Public Utilities Commission for the program as of May 2021. Unfortunately, you would not be eligible to participate in community solar if enrolled.
Ratepayers would be automatically switched from their current energy provider to the one their municipality selects under the CCA program to get access to lower rates through bulk pricing. However, you are able to opt out of the program and back into National Grid service without penalty. Once opted out, you would be eligible to enroll in community solar.
Solar energy production adds renewable energy to power distributed by the electric grid. Community solar allows households to access this clean, renewable energy via a local solar farm. This lessens the need for fossil fuels, which results in less pollution and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. You can help in being a part of a shift to increase the use of renewable energy sources by signing up for a community solar project today.
One available incentive program is the Community Renewables Program at the Renewable Energy Fund at Commerce Rhode Island. This first come, first serve program is available to community solar developers who will pass on the grants to subscribers in the form of a bill credit on their community solar bill.
Low-to-Moderate-Income (LMI): National Grid Rate Code A-60
Flat Rebate Grant Amount: $500/subscriber
Basic Residential: National Grid Rate Code A-16
Flat Rebate Grant Amount $300/subscriber
For more information please visit the Renewable Energy Fund webpage.
Historically, LMI access to renewable energy resources has been limited by cost barriers, lack of communication about programs and opportunities and a scarcity of renewable energy projects in LMI neighborhoods. OER has collaborated with several stakeholders including community solar developers, non-profits and subscriber management companies to enhance LMI customer inclusion in the Community Remote Net Metering (CRNM) program.
Under this proposal, any new community solar project that applies to an expanded CRNM program would need to ensure that no less than 20% of the electricity output of the system is designated to LMI customer electricity accounts. For more information, view the LMI Customer Inclusion in CRNM Program proposal in the Community Stories section.
No, you will still be able to take advantage of your full credit. However, please know that once you are connected to a community solar project your LIHEAP credit will be spread out over a few months rather than applying as one large credit to one statement.
Each community solar subscriber receives a portion of savings generated by their local project. Once the project starts to generate energy, you will start to see those savings reflected on your statement. The total bill for service will be discounted by 25% and will be shown under the Delivery Services portion of the bill. Customers receiving benefits through the following programs will receive an additional discount of 5%, totaling a total bill discount of 30% percent: Medicaid, General Public Assistance, or Family Independence Program.
Click here to see an example of a bill under the Low Income Rate A-60.
Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way to reduce a home's total electricity use and cost. By adding some measures that require changes in certain behaviors, further energy can be conserved in your home. Some things you can do that can add up to significant savings on your electricity bill include turning off lights, unplugging appliances that are not regularly used, and installing a programable thermostat. You can even schedule a no-cost home energy assessment for your home and may be eligible for rebates, a 0% interest HEAT loan, and thousands in savings towards a new insulation installation.
For more information, visit the Energy Efficiency section on the Office of Energy Resources website.
No, there is no charge for signing up for community solar. Solar developers pay subscription management companies for every customer they connect. These developers only make money if they can find customers to subscribe to their project and receive bill credits.
Each community solar subscriber receives a portion of savings generated by their local project. Once the project starts to generate energy, you will start to see those savings reflected on your statement. Your portion of the solar savings will be applied to your local utility bill and you will see a reduction in your overall utility charges. The remaining solar savings are allocated towards maintaining and operating the local solar project.
Community solar saves you money by allowing you to invest in solar panels that produce electricity for your home, even if you may not have an ideal roof or access to your roof for a solar installation. When you subscribe to a community solar project, you are paying for access to less expensive solar electricity rather than buying electricity at National Grid's standard offer rate.
Each customer uses a different amount of electricity each month. You might use more or less electricity than your neighbor, for example. The community solar developer or subscriber management company will use your past electricity usage data to determine the portion of the electricity from the community solar project you will receive, as well as the discount on your monthly electric bill. Your annual savings should be between 8-12% off your electric bill, but make sure to read your community solar contract for the specific discount rate. Even if the price of energy fluctuates, you will be paying less on your electric bill than you would if you weren't a subscriber.
You want to make sure you have access to an internet connected device. Other things that you may need in order to sign up are a National Grid account number, last 4 digits of a social security number and a signed participation form.
It is also important to have credit card information or banking account information handy. This is the most secure and efficient way to process payments for some subscriptions and is part of the reason that community solar is able to be offered at a discount to your current utility rate. However, some projects do not require any banking information, so be sure to ask this question before signing up for a community solar project.