Roanoke’s SolarShare Program
Adaora Ifebigh is Program Director, Energy Access at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. At NRECA, her focus includes equal energy access for low and moderate-income communities, and she leads the Advancing Energy Access for All initiative, focused on creating a sustainable practice supporting member cooperatives as they serve members, especially those who struggle to pay bills. She is project manager for the DOE SETO-funded Achieving Cooperative Community Equitable Solar Sources (ACCESS), the flagship project of the Advancing Energy Access for All initiative. She has worked at the DOE’s ARPA-E, managing research and development.
A big challenge across the energy industry is how to extend the benefits of renewable energy, such as solar, to low- and moderate-income households. As solar photovoltaics have matured over the years and significant cost reductions have been achieved, an immediate priority is ensuring that these benefits are distributed as equitably as possible and that low- and moderate-income communities are not left behind.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association's members have been leading the charge to ensure that the communities they serve benefit from the new energy revolution. Roanoke Electric Cooperative, headquartered in Aulander, North Carolina, is one such co-op. It is working with NRECA on a project called Achieving Cooperative Community Equitable Solar Sources, which explores ways to make solar energy affordable for communities with fewer resources.
Roanoke's contribution to this effort is a program called SolarShare, which will leverage the co-op's existing energy efficiency initiative and its nascent community solar program to provide energy benefits to members who struggle to pay their bills. This is a model that can be replicated across the industry, especially if there is philanthropic funding to help scale these critical programs nationwide.