Baltimore Shines - Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore Shines is a Baltimore City initiative that helps low-income residents access solar energy through either rooftop installations or community solar projects in Baltimore, Maryland. The program also expands workforce development opportunities in the solar installation industry. Baltimore Shines pilot projects were used to learn about barriers preventing solar installation in low-income communities and to inform the development of a sustainable financing model to increase access to solar energy. As the initial step to teaching energy affordability awareness, Baltimore Shines had community residents’ homes retrofitted by its close affiliate, Civic Works, which installed energy and water conservation equipment in homes. This program was not income restricted and is open to any Baltimore City homeowner or tenant residing in a house or apartment. Baltimore Shines also incorporated the development of workforce opportunities for underemployed and unemployed Baltimore residents through job-training and job placement. Additionally, Baltimore Shines leveraged a state funding program - the Maryland Community Solar Pilot program - that supported investments in renewable energy projects benefiting low- and moderate- income customers and encouraged private investment in the state’s solar industry with incentives for the investors. The program ultimately lowered bills, increased wages for some of the City’s low-income, under-employed or unemployed residents, and enhanced access to solar for many throughout the city. 

In the first Baltimore Shines pilot project, the City installed solar on 10 homes in the C.A.R.E. Community. Caring Active Restoring Efforts (C.A.R.E) is a community in the process of revitalization, looking for residents and investors to be a part of forward progress east of Johns Hopkins Hospital. In 2016, the City, in partnership with several non-profit organizations and local universities, launched a larger solar pilot targeting 33 homes that had previously been weatherized and had received in-home education services through the Baltimore Energy Initiative and Baltimore Energy Challenge. The Baltimore Energy Challenge has assisted tens of thousands of mostly low income residents to reduce energy consumption and costs using peer-to-peer engagement. The Empower Maryland program has allowed utilities to add customer surcharges to be spent on programs that reduce energy consumption and waste for residential and business consumers including efficient appliances, home energy checkups, rebates and bill credits for reducing electricity usage in Baltimore City and throughout the state. The second pilot project took place in the Morgan Community Mile areas, located in Northeast Baltimore near Morgan State University, where 33 owner-occupied homes received solar. Both of these low-income solar pilot programs provided insights into the barriers preventing low-income solar access, and identified logistical components for creating a long-term sustainable financing model that provides low-income residents equitable access to solar energy. The third pilot tested a financing model in Sandtown Winchester, providing solar on 9 homes.

In the spring of 2016, the City of Baltimore and the Maryland Clean Energy Center entered into an MOU that outlined goals and responsibilities for each team member to take in order to advance a low-income solar financing program for residents of the City of Baltimore, which included creating a program outline and model. The final program outline used the City of Baltimore and its Baltimore Energy Challenge program to focus on education and outreach, targeting the 9800 households that have received weatherization since 2009. These households then, based on their needs, style of home, location, shading, and various other considerations would then be funneled to financing options for on-site solar installations, or to a number of low-income community solar projects. Maryland Clean Energy Center is responsible for fully developing the financing mechanism for installation of solar on 1000 homes, and for assisting in identifying $8,000,000 in tax credit investments, as well as an additional $2,000,000 for an escrow fund that would be used as a back-stop.


Related Organizations:

  • City of Baltimore, Maryland

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