The Rev. Mariama White-Hammond is an outspoken activist for climate justice and the founding pastor of New Roots AME Church, a multiracial congregation in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. She wants to give low-income households and diverse populations a genuine stake in the state’s race to build a clean-energy future. Massachusetts solar policy, she told me, “should be targeting the people for whom there is a double benefit of not just having solar, but maybe having two or three more meals a week because of the money they are saving.”

More than 18% of the state’s electricity today comes from the sun, making Massachusetts a solar power leader. But for Massachusetts to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as mandated by the new Massachusetts climate bill, renewable energy’s role will have to step up dramatically in the years ahead.

Installing photovoltaic arrays on low-income households might not catapult our state to great heights of solar electricity generation, but it will help address the disparity that White-Hammond raises. In 2013, when my wife and I bought solar for our home, we delighted in the investment tax credits that knocked nearly $10,000 off the price of our $27,000 photovoltaic array. Within six years, our solar array had more than paid for itself in production incentives and reduced electricity bills. But low-income residents have not fared nearly so well.

For many, raising the capital to buy a home solar array is an insurmountable hurdle. Investment tax credits offer no real help to households with limited taxable income. The Mass Solar Loan program, which ran from 2015 to 2020, made solar financing easier for nearly 5,800 Massachusetts homeowners, but little more than a third of those loans went to low-income households.

Read the full article about solar energy policies by Philip Warburg at YES! Magazine.