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Clean Energy for Low Income Communities: Background and Quick Start Guide

This toolkit was prepared for state and local energy efficiency and renewable energy program administrators with an interest to improve or expand programs that advance energy affordability and equitability for low-income households using lessons learned from the Clean Energy for Low Income Communities Accelerator (CELICA). CELICA was a two-year voluntary partnership of over 30 local entities as well as national partners that ran from 2016-2018.

Definition of Low Income

Partners in CELICA defined and determined their “low-income” target population. As such, this toolkit features state and local program examples that are applicable to a range of households. Some examples may be applicable primarily to those that qualify for federal housing and energy funding programs which typically have a cap of somewhere between 150-200% of the Federal Poverty Level, 60% of the State Median Income, or 60-80% of Area Median Income. Other models, and in particular those related to solar incentive programs, allow participation for those at the higher end of low-income and the “moderate income” level as well (generally, those at 80-120% Area Median Income).

How to Use the Toolkit

This toolkit is focused on promising concepts for low-income residential energy efficiency and renewable energy programs explored within CELICA, broken down into two sections: CELICA Program Development Activities and CELICA Program Design. View the prompts below to jump straight to a particular section of interest.

CELICA Program Development Activities

When developing a residential low-income energy program, CELICA partners considered the following guiding questions related to the process for engaging key stakeholders, setting priorities, and developing action plans and evaluation strategies. For each question, there is a related toolkit section that draws upon CELICA partner experience and promising practices.

  • Need a better handle on the population you are looking to serve in your low-income energy program? 
    The CELICA Community Assessment and Barriers Analysis section provides key considerations and barriers to low-income household participation in existing energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.
    The Low-income Energy Affordability Data (LEAD) Tool provides data and graphs down to the county and city level for all 50 states.
  • Need a plan for engaging key stakeholders in the development of a low-income energy program?
    The CELICA Stakeholder Engagement section provides a primer on key stakeholder groups and examples of how they can be engaged to strengthen your low-income energy program.
  • Need to develop a low-income energy program action plan?
    The CELICA Action Planning section provides ideas and an action plan template for planning your low-income energy program.
  • Need a strategy for evaluating the success of a low-income energy program?
    The CELICA Metrics and Indicators section provides some ideas and examples.

CELICA Program Models

CELICA partners designed low-income energy programs addressing multiple housing types and barriers to participation, depending on the needs and gaps in their low-income communities. A further set of guiding questions and materials related to specific CELICA partner program models are provided below.

Have you decided on which housing types to focus your program improvement or expansion efforts?



  • The CELICA Single Family Home Retrofits section provides information from CELICA on ways to expand energy efficiency, rooftop solar PV, or healthy homes services for single family homes.
  • The CELICA Multifamily Housing Retrofits section provides information on the various multifamily housing types, key considerations, and program models from CELICA.

Do you have a low-income carve out, mandate, goal, or interest related to low-income community solar?

The CELICA Community Solar section provides information on CELICA models related to community solar for low-income participants with an emphasis on those that link energy efficiency and community solar.