Written by Meredith Jennings, PhD, Research Associate, HARC, Margaret Cook, PhD, Research Associate, HARC, and Greg Rosen, Founder & Principal, High Noon Advisors
Note: This blog is a recap of a recent episode of HARC’s Energy Crossroads Podcast, Solar + Storage Finance Opportunities, featuring Greg Rosen.
Communities across the country, including Houston and other Texas communities, are trying to accelerate a transition to a clean and just energy economy that includes options for everyone to participate and benefit. Emerging technologies such as solar+storage (S+S) systems allow utilities and their customers to generate, consume, and store their own solar energy that can be used later when the sun doesn’t shine or for resilience in the event of power outages. Even with prices for renewables and S+S systems continuing to come down, we still see a lack of access to capital to acquire this technology, especially for low income communities who pay three times more of their household income on energy costs compared to non-low income households and face disproportionate, negative impacts due to climate change. This is why our research project, Powered for Good, is currently investigating how to rapidly scale up finance and other strategies that result in more accessible, affordable, and resilient renewable energy solutions for low income communities in Texas.
Clean energy landscape in Texas
Texas has more wind power than any other state. Over the last few years, Texas has also established itself a national leader in installed solar capacity, having installed 3.4 GW solar in 2020 alone, more than any other state except for California–and enough to power about 340,000 homes. There is a growing value proposition for S+S in Texas: a battery can be charged with cheap solar energy and be used when the wholesale market cost of power is very high. There’s also a resiliency component: S+S can support a home, apartment building, or a critical government need with backup power during weather emergencies caused by extreme heat, hurricanes, and winter storms, which are increasingly more common due to climate change.
Although this abundance of renewable resources, coupled with the decline in costs, have made it possible for Texans to enjoy low-priced clean energy, access to these resources is not always available for the 6.5 million Texas households that can choose their electricity supplier. There are several barriers and deficits that are preventing households from switching.
Consumer and market barriers preventing clean energy adoption
Through our Powered for Good project, we identified the following barriers that have kept consumers from more actively participating in purchasing renewable energy or accessing S+S products:
Addressing deficits through community and market-based solutions
Informed by Powered for Good research, a new company called Energy Well Texas was formed to address these deficits. Its mission is to speed the transition of millions of customers to green energy, build community wealth and resilience, and contribute to rectifying historic issues of environmental justice and equity. The business model has already been piloted in Houston, and the results were astonishing–30%+ savings on household electric bills, and critical emergency power provision for 3+ days when storm Uri hit Texas a few weeks ago!
Powered for Good and Energy Well are considering a multi-dimensional approach to address key deficits that involve:
It only takes about two minutes for a new customer to sign up and switch their power to green power, which often can be cheaper than their current (brown power) provider’s offering. This approach can be a stepping stone to the adoption of technologies that make individuals safer by adding some level of energy storage at home. Switching also makes the air cleaner and reduces emissions. This new approach and its related electricity offering bundle will also open access to low income communities currently facing higher energy burdens.
With so much solar in Texas going up right now, it is easy to imagine a green-powered Texas economy in the coming decade!
Powered for Good is a research collaboration between HARC, High Noon Advisors, Moonlight Interests, and the Texas Energy Poverty Research Institute (TEPRI) that seeks to explore, develop, and accelerate accessible clean energy initiatives in the deregulated electricity market in Texas. This research is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) under the Solar Energy Technologies Office Award Number DE-EE0009007 as well as the Jacob and Terese Hershey Foundation.
About our Guest Blogger
Gregory Rosen is Founder and Principal at High Noon Advisors (HNA), an advisory firm focused on the rapidly evolving space comprising renewable energy, efficiency, storage, software, finance, policy and energy access. He is a 20-year renewables finance veteran and strategist who has developed or financed more than $400 million worth of residential, commercial and utility solar projects. He is currently working with a variety of companies and non-profit organizations to craft and raise scalable, community-friendly financing for clean energy initiatives in both the US and the developing world.