December 8, 2023

Request for Lead Organizations for U.S. Department of Energy Equitable Solar Communities of Practice

Opportunity Overview:

In November 2023, the Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technology Office (SETO) launched the Equitable Solar Communities of Practice program to support the expansion of equitable benefits in solar adoption. A community of practice, for the purposes of this program, is a group of organizations with expertise in equitable solar, to include one ‘lead organization’ and up to six ‘core team members’ that will convene regularly to accomplish the specific tasks and deliverables outlined in this opportunity. The Equitable Solar Communities of Practice program is now accepting applications for lead organizations to support five communities of practice across the following categories – equitable access and consumer protections, meaningful household savings, resilience, community-led economic development, and workforce development – aiming to convene stakeholders and experts to identify best practices and pathways to scale equitable solar solutions.  

ENERGYWERX seeks applications from organizations with experience addressing issues of equitable solar access at a national or broad regional level (additional details on applicant qualifications and capabilities can be found below) to serve as lead organizations for one or more of the five communities of practice proposed between January through July 2024. Lead organizations will be eligible for $75,000 in funding per community of practice, distributed based on the completion of project milestones.

The Equitable Solar Communities of Practice program is managed by ENERGYWERX in partnership with DOE, a collaboration made possible through an innovative Partnership Intermediary Agreement set up by the DOE's Office of Technology Transitions. This agreement enables ENERGYWERX to broaden DOE’s engagement with innovative organizations and non-traditional partners, facilitating the rapid development, scaling, and deployment of clean energy solutions. ENERGYWERX is facilitating this Assessment Event (AE)to identify Community of Practice leads to support the expansion of equitable solar access.

Applications for this Assessment Event opened on November 9, 2023 and will close at 5:00 p.m. (Eastern) on December 8, 2023. DOE anticipates that applicants will be notified of their selection by January 2024 and that this engagement will run through July 2024.

Opportunity Timeline

  • Information Webinar/Objective Strategic Session (IW/OSS) [November 15, 2023]: Join ENERGYWERX and the U.S. Department of Energy for an informational webinar on the Equitable Solar Communities of Practice and Lead Organization Application process. Participants will be able to ask questions during this session. The virtual IW/OSS will take place on November 15, 2023 from 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM ET.
  • Office Hours [December 1, 2023]: ENERGYWERX and the U.S. Department of Energy will host open office hours for potential applicants. Participants are encouraged to come prepared to ask questions. This session will take place on December 1, 2023 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM ET. Click Here to RSVP
  • Selected Performers Notified: Early January 2024
  • Kick Off Meeting with Selected Performers: Late January 2024
  • Final Project Results Completed: July 2024

How to Participate

  1. Download the Capabilities Overview Template: Click Here to Download
  2. Review resources from the November 15, 2023 Informational Webinar/Objective Strategic Session
  3. Attend the Office Hours on December 1, 2023: Click Here to RSVP
  4. Complete the Submission Form: Click Here to Submit (Submissions are due No Later Than December 8, 2023, 5:00 PM ET)

Opportunity Information:

Application Submission Window

November 9, 2023 – December 8, 2023 (5:00 PM ET)

Applicants Qualifications & Capabilities

Applicants well-positioned to serve as a lead organization will be able to demonstrate:
  • Expert knowledge of and experience in the equitable solar industry at a national level, such as how policies and programs currently function, how well equitable solar benefits are currently distributed, and what barriers exist to scaling the distribution of these benefits.
  • Expert knowledge of, and national or regional experience in providing more access to the specific meaningful benefit(s) of the community of practice they are applying to lead.
  • Knowledge of and working relationships with a diverse set of local or regional organizations, academic institutions, or community groups with direct experience supporting the specific meaningful benefit(s) of the community of practice they are applying to lead.
  • Participation or leadership in networks of organizations that promote equitable access to the benefits of solar and demonstrated success communicating with these networks.
  • Strong facilitation and project management capabilities.
  • Capacity and tools to organize and host regular, interactive virtual meetings.
  • Strong research and analysis capabilities.

Background Information: Equitable Solar Communities of Practice

As solar electricity has become more affordable, residential solar adoption has increased, with more than 2 million solar energy systems currently operating across the United States as of 2019. Despite decreases in system costs, though, many U.S. households still lack access to affordable solar electricity, which especially includes renters, homeowners who can’t access affordable financing, and those without suitable roof conditions or adequate sun exposure. While rooftop PV adoption has become more accessible over time, the Solar Futures Study finds that only about one-third of solar adopters came from households that earned less than the area median income. In addition, census tracts with majority Black and Hispanic populations exhibit 30% and 69% less rooftop photovoltaic (PV) adoption as compared to the average census tract, respectively. 

In his first week in office, President Biden issued Executive Order 14008, which, among other actions, created a government-wide Justice40 Initiative with the goal of delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits of climate and clean energy investments to disadvantaged communities. Recognizing existing disparities among clean energy adopters, DOE developed a set of 8 priorities to help drive benefits to disadvantaged communities.

As a part of its mission and strengthened through the Justice40 Initiative, Solar Energy Technology Office (SETO) works to ensure that the benefits of the development and deployment of solar are delivered to all U.S.households by supporting the growth of a diverse and well-supported solar workforce and increasing equitable access to solar energy. SETO provides resources, technical assistance, and other support to ‘equitable solar’ solutions, which includes community solar, low-income rooftop solar, and other distributed solar + storage solutions located in or benefitting low-income or disadvantaged communities.

SETO has identified five meaningful benefits that should be included in all equitable solar solutions:

  1. Equitable access and consumer protections, including contract terms that support strong consumer protections, availability of financial products to support installation/participation among all households, and inclusive outreach.
  2. Meaningful household savings, including guaranteed bill and/or household savings, wealth building opportunities, and other benefits such as tenant benefits provided to residents in master-metered buildings beyond those provided prior to solar being utilized.
  3. Resilience, storage, and grid benefits, including household- and community-level resilience, grid strengthening and grid-level resilience, and improved health outcomes through reduced or shortened power outages.
  4. Community-led economic development, including opportunities for community ownership, community benefits agreements, workforce development, entrepreneurship, and increased support for local-, small-, minority-, and women-owned businesses, and authentic community engagement.
  5. Solar workforce, including policies that ensure jobs are accessible to workers from all backgrounds, provide competitive wages and benefits, and offer opportunities for union membership as well as programs that prepare and sustain a skilled and diverse clean energy workforce such as online and in-person training and education programs, work-based learning opportunities such as internships and apprenticeships, collegiate competitions, certification programs, and support services such as career counseling, mentorship, and job readiness.

While SETO has already begun to explore tools and best practices for delivering these benefits through its existing programming, the agency now seeks to develop five communities of practice to support scaling the equitable delivery of meaningful benefits of solar through equitable solar. These five communities of practice will identify existing best practices, resource gaps, additional resource needs, and other solutions needed to scale equitable access to the benefits of solar. Please note that the scope of this effort includes identifying next steps and potential new tools but does not include the creation of those tools themselves.

Lead Organization Responsibilities & Outcomes

Each of the five Equitable Solar Communities of Practice will be led by a ‘lead organization’, who will recruit a group of approximately six expert stakeholders from organizations external to the lead organization to serve as core team members to regularly participate in the communities of practice. Core team members will work closely with the lead organization of their community of practice to inform and complete the deliverables and outcomes defined for their community of practice, such as the research and gap analysis and report writing, and will help represent, engage, and disseminate findings to the broader network of equitable solar stakeholders, as possible and as appropriate. Community of practice lead organizations will coordinate with one another and share lessons learned throughout the project timeline.

DOE anticipates launching the Communities of Practice in January 2024. The main activities, timeline, and key outcomes for each Communities of Practice to complete over a period of 6 months (from January through July 2024) include:

TASK 1: Build the Core Team and Strategy (Month 1)

  • Identify and recruit up to six (6) “core team members” (organizations and individuals) with expertise and experience in the respective meaningful benefit topic area to serve as strategic advisers for the project. 
  • Plan a kick off meeting for the community of practice core team members. 
  • Develop a strategy for achieving deliverables throughout the year. 
  • Convene monthly core team meetings.
  • Key Outcomes: Identify core team members, hold kick off meeting of core team, create strategy, and schedule core team meetings. Participate in kick off meeting for community of practice leads.

TASK 2: Complete Literature Review and Gap Analysis (Months 2-3)

  • Conduct literature review and gap analysis to identify the current landscape of the meaningful benefit topic and begin to identify potential pathways to scale the meaningful benefit.
  • Include any potential targets or milestones for scaling the meaningful benefit and strategies for accounting for the value of the benefit in policymaking or program design.
  • Key Outcomes: Summary of research and key takeaways in the form of a slide deck to share with SETO and other community of practice leads.

TASK 3: Hold Community Convening (Months 2-4)

  • Plan a public community stakeholder convening on the meaningful benefit topic to discuss main barriers, successes, and models to scale the benefit.
  • Share slide deck with attendees and collect feedback from broader community and the SETO team.
  • Write up lessons learned from community convening to share with SETO (and potentially publicly, if appropriate) in the form of a short report.
  • Key Outcomes: Community convening that has interactive elements to receive input from broader community and share short report or PPT deck on lessons learned.

TASK 4: Best Practice Report (Months 4-6)

  • Leverage the community of practice core team members and other participants to support the SETO in identifying industry best practices(or best practices from adjacent industries), existing or potential programs and tools, and scalable models to address barriers to developing equitable solar with their respective meaningful benefit.
  • Create a public-facing report/resource on the literature review, gap analysis, and best practices.
  • Key Outcomes: Complete report and provide a presentation to SETO team on literature review, gap analysis, best practices, and convening input and share drafts with SETO and other community of practice leads.

TASK 5: Pathways to Scale (Month 6)

  • Develop a summary of key needs, activities, and programs, if necessary, for scaling their respective meaningful benefit. This may include a proposal for new resources, tools, and/or research that could help address barriers. The core team can support the creation of the plan.
  • Key Outcomes: Share summary of key needs and/or proposal of resources, tools, or other next steps to scale the respective meaningful benefit. This can be in the form of a report or slide deck to share with SETO and other community of practice leads.

TASK 6: Share Findings at Equitable Community Solar Events (Month 6)

  • Join for a webinar hosted by DOE to share findings from the Community of Practice in Summer 2024.
  • Attend an in-person event in Summer 2024 to present on the findings from the Community of Practice.  Estimated travel costs should be factored into the proposed budget.

Funding Details

Lead organizations will be provided $75,000 per community of practice they are applying to lead.

Funding for lead organizations will be delivered as a percentage of the total budget based on milestones achieved:

  • Task 1 “Build Core Team and Strategy” – 10%
  • Task 2 “Complete Literature Review and Gap Analysis” –15%
  • Task 3 “Hold Community Convening” – 20%
  • Task 4 “Best Practice Report” – 30%
  • Task 5 “Pathways to Scale” – 15%
  • Task 6 “Share Findings at Community Solar Event” – 10%

Organizations can apply to lead more than one community of practice. Funding can be used at the discretion of the organization to support the completion of all milestones. If an organization applies to lead more than one community of practice, ENERGYWERX reserves the right to select organizations to lead one or more of the communities of practice for which they applied.

Note: Core team members will receive stipends of$3,000 per core team participant (estimated 20 hours of participation). These stipends will be paid by ENERGYWERX directly to core team participants and will not be taken out of the lead organization budget.


November 15, 2023 OSS/IW:


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