2017 Bright Idea
Winners:
Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, CT
January 1, 2017
Jurisdiction:
Connecticut

As the cost of going solar steadily declines, Connecticut’s lowest-income households continue to be locked out of the market for renewable energy. The Solarize State-Sponsored Housing Program (SSHP) program is attempting to change that by lowering barriers to affordable financing and industry expertise. Connecticut has the highest cost of electricity in the contiguous United States, and while escalating energy costs impact the residential sector as a whole, the state's lowest-income residents are disproportionately burdened. According to a 2015 study conducted by Connecticut-based nonprofit Operation Fuel, energy costs for these households range from 19 to 37 percent of income; "affordable" energy costs are defined as comprising of about six percent of a household's income. Not surprisingly, energy efficiency was ranked in a recent survey of Connecticut renters as the most important quality of housing, ahead even of affordability. Through a partnership with the state’s energy finance agency Connecticut Green Bank, the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority created Solarize SSHP as a way to allow SSHP portfolio owners to reinvest in their properties while lowering the cost of energy for them and their residents. Under Solarize SSHP, owners of participating properties lock in below-market electricity rates for up to 20 years, protecting the property and its residents against potential rate hikes. In many communities, where these properties can represent housing of last resort, this will have a substantial impact on quality of life.

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