Churches sometimes find themselves between the Rock and a hard place when it comes to choosing smart energy solutions.
The Rock (ahem, Jesus) calls us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and one of the ways we can do that is by reducing our reliance on things that harm his creation, and by extension our brothers and sisters around the globe.
But the hard place—the financial reality of investing in alternative energy sources like solar—makes it challenging for congregations to take the steps they would like to take, especially if money is already distributed thinly across many different areas of need in their communities.
What if that “hard place” could be moved out of the way so that your church can follow the Rock with confidence and joy?
Nonprofits Are Now Eligible for Discounts on Renewable Energy Investment
Historic climate legislation recently passed that, for the first time, offers nonprofits a discount on renewable energy investments. Interfaith Power & Light recently hosted a webinar on solar financing for congregations, which you can watch on Facebook or YouTube.
There are solar PV systems in congregations in almost all states, with approximately 1,370 PV systems installed as of 2022. There used to be three main ways congregations have installed solar systems: through outright purchase by fundraising, endowments, or loans; leasing a system; or through a power purchase agreement.
With new access to solar rebates, congregations can now purchase and receive a 30-60% rebate on their renewable energy investment.
30% Base Rebate, Plus Three Opportunities for More Rebates on Solar
The Inflation Reduction Act has approved a 30% rebate for nonprofits that install solar PV systems over the next decade (between 2023 and 2033). Application criteria and additional details haven’t been completely formalized yet, but it is certainly worth keeping these items on your radar, because the details will be forthcoming very soon.
The 30% rebate will require an application and a form that you’ll submit with your annual IRS 990. Congregations can expect to receive their rebates 6-12 months after filing.
There are three additional rebate opportunities that can be added onto this initial 30%, so that congregations could save as much as 60% on their solar investment.
The first “adder” is a 10% rebate for selecting a domestic content supplier. There aren’t a lot of domestic suppliers yet, so this may be opened up to both Canadian and Mexican sources.
The second additional rebate is 10% for low-income and tribal communities. This is likely to be based on 2020 census tract data, which you can find here.
And the third rebate is for communities that are in the presence of energy facilities, like coal mines, refineries, pipelines, and so on. You can find out if your community is eligible for this 10% rebate by visiting the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Community Tax Credit Bonus map.
How These Rebates Help Your Congregation
Obviously, saving up to 60% on solar installation for your congregation seems like a big win. This rebate gives congregations the opportunity to lower their PV system costs. The resulting reduction in your electrical bill can also help recoup this expense.
It will also significantly reduce the time it takes your congregation to recoup your investment, from an average of 7-12 years to less than 5.
Denominational Funding Opportunities for Solar
Another way these rebates benefit congregations is that you may be able to secure a loan from a denomination funding source. Here is a selection of denominations that have supported loans for solar investments:
- Catholic Climate Covenant – Catholic Energies
- Disciples of Christ Church Extension Fund
- Episcopal Church Building Fund
- Mennonite Creation Care – Pam de Young Net Zero Energy Fund
- Mission Investment Fund of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA)
- Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program
- United Church of Christ Cornerstone Fund
How to Get Started
The national Interfaith Power & Light or an affiliate in your state can help you assess your baseline energy usage, conduct an energy audit, and incorporate ways to reduce your congregation’s carbon footprint. Learn more about their Cool Congregations program and access their Start Up Kit here.
There are three important first steps to take while the government finalizes the application guidelines: form a Green Team for your church (this project is a lot for just one person), compile a year of electric bills, and get multiple bids for solar installation.
If you aren’t sure that your congregation will be able to see the cost benefit—or maybe you yourself question the benefits, try visiting EnergySage.com or contact your IPL affiliate, who can help you provide the data and backing to discern the best course of action for your organization.
See? There’s no reason to remain stuck between the Rock and a hard place. The hard place just moved over and made way for solar.