OP-ED: Time Running Out to Take Advantage of Oregon Rebate Program 

February, 2023 - Sara Sayles

The window for low-income service providers to take advantage of funds available through the Oregon Solar+ Storage Rebate Program is closing. Each year, 25 percent of the program’s budget is allocated to low-income and moderate-income homeowners and service providers. This year, the non-income-restricted funds have already been disbursed, and only low-income and moderate-income restricted funds remain. Additionally, the program is scheduled to sunset in January 2024, further illustrating the need for low-income service providers to act now.

In 2019, the Oregon Legislature passed House Bill 2618, requiring the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) to adopt a program providing rebates for the “purchase, construction or installation” of solar and combined solar and storage systems in both residential and commercial applications. As a result, ODOE established the program with a budget consisting of funding for various tiers of entities involved in purchasing, constructing or installing solar or solar and storage systems, with the tiers of funding depending on those entities’ income levels. The tiers are (1) non-income-restricted, (2) moderate-income restricted and (3) low-income restricted.

Under OAR 330-240-0070, low-income service providers include:

  • developers or owners of affordable multifamily housing that are eligible to receive public assistance administered by Oregon Housing and Community Services;
  • community service organizations (public, tribal or 501(c) entities) “whose primary purpose is to offer health, dental, social, financial, energy conservation, or other assistive services to individuals or households with incomes at or below 100 percent of the state median income by household size;”
  • tribal or local government entities that use public buildings to provide social services, emergency shelter and/or communications in disaster situations.

Of note, there is no definition for moderate-income service providers because the distinction only matters to residential applicants and not nonresidential service providers. To be eligible for the funds, all contractors must either be on the list of ODOE-approved contractors or signup through the ODOE website before applying for rebates.

As of Jan. 13, 2023, $2,848,724 of low- to moderate-income restricted funds remained in the program. As the program continues, however, ODOE will release additional funding“ buckets” while updating the rules regarding eligibility. ODOE is seeing significant demand for the non-income-restricted solar rebates while money remains in the moderate- to low-income “bucket.” Specifically, OAR 330-240-0150(8) provides that if the funds for low- or moderate-income service providers are not spent for the year, ODOE may make the unspent funds available for all applicants. Thus, there is a time-limited window for low- and moderate-income restricted service providers to take advantage of the remaining funds before ODOE potentially restricts them.

Additionally, low- to moderate-income service providers should be aware that the program is scheduled to sunset in January 2024 and will be staffed only through June 30, 2023 (i.e., the ODOE members working on the program are in limited-duration positions that are only authorized through the end of June). While ODOE plans to propose an extension of the program during the 2023 legislative session, low- to moderate-income service providers may want to take advantage of the remaining funds while they are available (and before ODOE reallocates them).

This column is intended to provide readers with general information and not legal advice. Consult professional counsel for help regarding specific situations.

Column first appeared in the Oregon Daily Journal of Commerce on February 17, 2023.


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