The Climate Access Fund (“CAF”) was established in 2017 as an independent 501(c)(3) green bank aimed at reducing the energy burden and carbon footprint of Maryland’s low- to moderate-income (“LMI”) households by facilitating access to community solar. CAF’s primary purpose is to fill gaps in the solar market that are preventing more LMI households from benefiting from solar power. CAF does so by offering innovative financing to solar developers to incentivize them to serve more LMI households, directly developing and managing unique LMI-centered community solar projects, and advocating for statewide policies that increase LMI access to community solar.
CAF’s inaugural project is Solar4Us @ Henderson Hopkins School. The project will allocate 100% of generated solar energy to an estimated 175 low-income households at a targeted discount of 25% to the utility rate. It will provide local residents with an opportunity to share in project ownership. CAF will work with partners to offer paid apprenticeship and contractor opportunities to local residents and firms. And the project will launch a school club focused on clean energy topics ranging from solar power to energy efficiency.
Additionally, CAF advocates for statewide policies and regulations that bring more community solar to lower-wealth and disadvantaged communities. As the “LMI Advocate” on the Maryland Public Service Commission’s Net Metering Working Group, CAF has successfully advocated for an expansion of preferential capacity allocations to projects serving LMI customers. CAF led a working group that recommended alternative, less intrusive means of verifying low-income status as defined in the community solar regulations; these recommendations were adopted by the MD Public Service Commission. CAF originated a bill considered in the Maryland General Assembly’s 2022 Session that would exempt from personal property tax community solar projects, which provide more than 50% of their brownfields – thereby creating an incentive for more of these targeted projects to be developed.