Community solar provider Neighborhood Sun recently announced that it would support legislation intended to promote the development of community solar facilities. Legislation SB 31/HB 397 is designed to counter antiquated laws that don’t best serve the underserved communities that community solar is intended to target. Neighborhood Sun hopes that, with its involvements, it will be able to prevent future predatory practices that take advantage of low- to middle-income households.
According to the developer’s CEO, Gary Skulnik, the company has witnessed firsthand the current practices that burden local communities. For the state of Maryland, that means delaying the clean energy shift intended to drastically reduce carbon emissions. Skulnik stated that, to achieve “true energy equity,” current regulations on the power supply industry will need to be reformed.
According to studies that led to SB 31/HB 397, retail energy companies primarily target low- to middle-income neighborhoods, much like any community solar provider would. However, their practices include a “bait and switch” that starts with a promise of savings but are often followed by rates exceeding those of the local utility companies. Should the legislation pass, these companies will be required to reduce their rates to lower or the same as the current standard charged by utilities. Any 3rd-party supplier that was working with Maryland households over the past 12 months will need to make these price adjustments.
For retailers to provide energy services, they will now need to be enrolled with the Public Service Commission prior to acquiring customers.This will further ensure pricing remains fair and equitable to current standards.
Along with supporting SB 31/HB 397, Neighborhood Sun has remained a proponent for community solar development across Maryland. The community solar provider has worked with local organizations and partnered with civic organizations to enhance the presence of community solar in Maryland. In 2020, it was behind the formation of WeSolar, the United States’ only black woman-owned community solar company.