Community solar program offers simple way to choose renewable energy

Community solar program offers simple way to choose renewable energy

Perrin and Brian Stewart (Photo courtesy of Brian Stewart)

Brian Stewart is concerned about what climate change means for his children’s future, and he sees the Oregon Community Solar Program as an easy way to make a positive difference.

“There are a lot of people who want to help do their part for climate change, but they don’t know what to do,” said Stewart. “Community solar is an unbelievable program we have here that’s almost too good to be true. When I tell people, they’re like what’s the catch? There’s no catch.”

Stewart, a Portland resident, is one of thousands of Oregonians who have subscribed to a local community solar project through the Oregon Community Solar Program. It provides people with an easy way to share in solar benefits — especially if they rent, live in a condo, lack a sunny roof, or if rooftop solar isn’t in their budget right now.

How does the program work? Solar developers, community groups, public entities and nonprofits build solar projects across the state and enroll subscribers. These projects generate clean, renewable energy for the electrical grid, and all the subscribers share in the benefits.

As a participant, Stewart pays a subscription fee and receives solar credits on his electric bill that offset his family’s electricity use. Most subscribers save on annual energy costs, and income-qualified households are guaranteed discounts and other benefits.

The state-enabled initiative is overseen by the Oregon Public Utility Commission and administered in partnership with Energy Trust of Oregon, Energy Solutions and Community Energy Project.

Energy Trust works with the Oregon Community Solar Program to help make it easy for customers of Portland General Electric, Pacific Power and Idaho Power to subscribe to community solar projects.

“I’m convinced that renewable energy is the key to everything in terms of our sustainable future,” said Stewart who previously served as vice president of sustainable innovation at Nike and currently leads the nonprofit Electrify Now, which he started with his wife, Perrin. “We have to change our energy systems that are causing the problem. And we’re all part of the energy system. So, when you change your home to renewable energy, you are doing your part to change your little piece of the system to build it the way it needs to be in the future.”

He also appreciates that the program is helping create more solar projects right here in Oregon.

“It’s very tangible. You’re literally helping to finance clean energy generation in our state. You know that there’s economic benefits because you’re employing people locally, and it’s not some abstract thing that’s happening far away.”

But most of all, Stewart appreciates that community solar offers a simple way to take meaningful action. “It’s really moving the needle. I’m super concerned about our future, and that makes me want to fix stuff — and this is the little piece of it that I can fix in my own way. It’s kind of a no-brainer.”

To learn more and sign up with a subscription manager serving your area, visit the Oregon Community Solar website You can also read about discounted rates and other benefits for income-qualified households.