Chapel Hill, North Carolina Joins National Program to Reduce Solar Energy Costs

Chapel Hill to receive no-cost assistance making solar more affordable and accessible

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 3, 2016 — Chapel Hill, North Carolina has made a commitment to expand solar energy development as a founding participant in SolSmart, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. The SolSmart program provides official recognition to cities and counties for making solar more affordable and accessible at the local level.

SolSmart is providing no-cost technical assistance to reduce barriers to solar energy growth in Chapel Hill and make solar more affordable for homes and businesses. The goal is for Chapel Hill to soon receive a national SolSmart designation – bronze, silver, or gold – showing the community has taken key steps to encourage solar energy development.

North Carolina is already home to 5,950 solar jobs, ranking ninth in the nation, according to The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census 2015.

“Chapel Hill is committed to expanding solar energy use and proud to be one of the founding participants in SolSmart,” said Town of Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger. “This program will allow us to build on the town’s previous accomplishments, including our participation in the Department of Energy’s Solar Roadmap program.”

To receive a SolSmart designation, communities must take action to reduce solar “soft costs,” which are non-hardware costs that can increase the time and money it takes to install a solar energy system. Examples of soft costs include planning and zoning; permitting, interconnection, and inspection; financing; customer acquisition; and installation labor. Reducing these costs will lead to savings that are passed on to consumers.

Communities seeking designation are eligible to receive no-cost technical assistance from SolSmart experts. They can also apply to host SolSmart Advisors, which will be fully funded temporary staff embedded in up to 40 communities to help each achieve designation.

Chapel Hill is among nearly 30 communities nationwide that are “Early Adopters” in the SolSmart program. SolSmart is administered by a team of national experts led by the International City/County Management Association and The Solar Foundation.

Last week, SolSmart announced the first 22 communities to receive official designation since the program was launched in April 2016. SolSmart aims to designate 300 communities during the three-year, federally funded program.

“The role of local governments in building stronger and more resilient communities has never been greater,” said ICMA Executive Director Robert J. O’Neill, Jr. “Cities, towns, and counties consume a large portion of the nation’s electricity, which is why they can also have a significant impact on the financial, environmental, and economic health of the country by adopting solar energy technologies. The SolSmart program will recognize that impact.”

“We are excited to work with local governments to reduce costs and other barriers to solar energy development,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director of The Solar Foundation. “We hope many more communities across the nation will be encouraged to pursue a SolSmart designation and take advantage of the no-cost technical assistance available.”

Communities can apply to join the SolSmart program and find more information at solsmart.org.

About SolSmart

SolSmart is a national designation and technical assistance program that recognizes leading solar communities and empowers additional communities to expand their local solar markets. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, SolSmart strives to cut red tape, drive greater solar deployment, and make it possible for even more American homes and businesses to access solar energy to meet their electricity needs. Learn more at www.solsmart.org

About the SunShot Initiative

The U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort that aggressively drives innovation to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources before the end of the decade. Through SunShot, the Energy Department supports efforts by private companies, universities, and national laboratories to drive down the cost of solar electricity to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour. Learn more at energy.gov/sunshot.

About ICMA

ICMA, the International City/County Management Association, advances professional local government management worldwide. Its mission is to create excellence in local governance by developing and advancing professional management to create sustainable communities that improve lives worldwide. The management decisions made by ICMA’s members affect millions of individuals living in thousands of communities, from small villages and towns to large metropolitan areas.

About The Solar Foundation

Our mission is to accelerate adoption of the world’s most abundant energy source. Through our leadership, research, and capacity building, we create transformative solutions to achieve a prosperous future in which solar technology is integrated into all aspects of our lives. Visit us at TheSolarFoundation.org.

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Avery Palmer, The Solar Foundation, 202-846-7509, apalmer@solarfound.org

Emily Sparks, International City/County Management Association, 202-962-3694, esparks@icma.org