Examining Equitable Accessibility in Sustainability Transitions: Utilities’ Solar Deployment and Low-Middle-Income Households

Abstract: Several policies have been enacted to promote the adoption of renewable electricity leading some incumbent utilities to embrace the transition. Yet, the scale of consumer adoption appears to be limited by accessibility. The underlying factors inhibiting accessibility are exacerbated with lowand middle-income (LMI) consumers who not only have substantial income disparities but also make up a significant proportion of a utility’s customer base. While prior research demonstrates that policies can help in scaling participation hurdles in solar, the extent to which utility efforts help to unlock the market potential for LMI participation is not evident. The first of this three-theme talk examines democratizing access to solar technology by investigating the barriers and drivers of investment in community solar programs (CSP) in the U.S. The second theme dives deeper to extract contributions to distributional effects of environmental policy by evaluating utilities’ efforts to provide consumer access to clean energy. Reviewing solar initiatives of utilities, as reflected on their website enhanced with secondary archival data, we find that the role of accessibility particularly for LMI households, either through CSPs or rooftop solar installations, is shaped by complementary factors. This talk concludes with a third theme that previews two other interesting projects in the investigator’s research agenda.

Sunday, September 26, 2021 - 12:00pm
Bernie Dallas Room