2022

Saved by the Sun

GENERATING COST SAVINGS THROUGH LOCAL CLEAN ENERGY

As a Public Benefit Corporation and Certified B Corp, we see it as both our duty and privilege to use our position as a business to generate a positive impact on the people and communities we serve. That's what life is about- people, not businesses... right? Maybe the fossil fuel industry just didn't get the memo. Well, this impact report is here to shine a light on our efforts to create an energy future where we do just that- put people first. Thanks to community solar, we can help to provide people with access to solar energy savings and an easy way to take climate action within their community.

Neighborhood Sun is on a mission to make clean, affordable, and locally-generated energy accessible to ALL.

We help households and organizations save money and support clean energy by connecting them to the lowest-cost retail energy source: community solar. This new state-supported program allows anyone who pays an electricity bill to save money by subscribing to receive a share of the discounted renewable energy generated by a nearby community solar farm. That means no costs, installations, or homeownership requirements for the subscriber!

By connecting subscribers to local solar projects in their community and managing the acquisition through our proprietary and fully customizable SunEngine™ community solar platform, Neighborhood Sun is able to empower communities with the tools they need to take back their power and directly benefit from the clean energy transition. Together, we're building a solar community-- not just a business.

We use the impact framework provided by the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
#3: Good Health and Well-Being #7: Affordable and Clean Energy #10: Reduced Inequalities #11: Sustainable Cities and Communities #12: Responsible Consumption and Production #13: Climate Action

Letter from Our C.E.O.

To Our Solar Community

Though my journey as a climate advocate started back in 2000, it wasn’t until I founded Neighborhood Sun in 2016 that I was able to help address the intersection of climate change and energy equity. Lower-income households typically contribute the least to climate change but are impacted disproportionately by its harmful economic and health effects. Transitioning to clean energy is an opportunity to democratize our energy system and make sure it’s helping communities instead of harming them. That’s where community solar comes in and why it’s been our single focus for the past seven years.

Thanks to accessible clean energy solutions like community solar, it’s now an option for all utility customers to benefit from solar energy through a simple subscription format, not just the households who are eligible for rooftop panels. Despite seeing electricity costs rising across the country (in some cases more than 60%) leave more than one in six U.S. families behind on their utility bills this past year, we were able to provide discounts to residents and businesses on standard utility rates, leading to over $1.5 Million in savings on electricity bills for households and businesses of all income levels. From rural households to apartment renters and affordable housing residents, we worked to make sure everyone is included in this clean energy transition, earning us the Department of Energy’s 2022 Inclusive Solar Outreach Award

As we look to the future, we are excited to continue exploring additional green energy services and products that will help us better serve the needs of our growing solar community as we find new ways to improve accessibility for lower-income subscribers. We’re proud of what we have accomplished as you’ll see in this year’s impact report, but we still have a long way to go, as a business and as a country. We look forward to a year of continued growth and impact, working with our broad community of stakeholders to make the world a cleaner, greener, and more equitable place. 

Gary Skulnik, Founder and CEO

Annual Highlights

Shining a Light on 2022's Impact

Serving Subscribers of All Income Levels

Thanks to our Solar Helps Advance Resident Equality (S.H.A.R.E.) program, 24% of this year's solar savings went to Low- and Moderate-Income (LMI) residents or organizations. We also completely sold out the largest LMI-only solar farm in the nation, Oaks Landfill, to LMI residents in Montgomery County, Maryland, where Neighborhood Sun was founded and remains today. Through our partnership with the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County, 829 LMI households across 6 properties will benefit from a 25% discount on their electricity.

Bringing Solar Savings to New Communities

We increased our MegaWatts under management by 50% since 2021, adding 29 new community solar projects to our fully customizable community solar software, SunEngine™. Thanks to our skilled and passionate team, we continued to grow our local impact in Maryland while also expanding into new markets so we could provide solar savings to people across 4 new states and 5 new utilities. We now manage community solar projects in Maine, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Colorado, in addition to Maryland and our earlier projects in New Jersey, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Customers

3,456
New Community Solar Subscribers
$1.5 M
Saved by Community Solar Subscribers

Environment

108,659
Metric Tons CO2-equivalent Prevented
153 M
kWh of Renewable Energy Generated

Community

$25,650
Donated to Community Partner Organizations
33+
Community Partners Supported through Donations

Impact on Community

The beauty of community solar is that it brings together so many different stakeholder groups to ensure that EVERYONE can benefit from the clean energy transition, not just the people at the top of the corporate ladder.

So, how do the communities we serve benefit from our business?

  1. Our community solar subscribers benefit by saving money on their electricity costs. Through their support of local solar, individuals are also able to take impactful steps toward improving their community's air quality and energy independence.
  2. Our community partners benefit from our donations on behalf of new subscribers, which is our way to reinvest revenue back into the community it came from and support causes that align with our values.
  3. Our community solar developer partners benefit from our fully customizable SunEngine™ community solar software and our compassionate customer care team.

We see it as our job to bring together all these different stakeholders in a community and give them the tools they need to transition away from fossil fuels in an inclusive and equitable manner.

New York: Solarize Columbia County Campaign

We were excited to sponsor a Climate Carnival for the residents of Colombia County, N.Y., helping to turn climate action into a fun community celebration. Our community-based efforts to bring clean, affordable energy to rural New York residents won us the Department of Energy’s 2022 Inclusive Solar Outreach Award.

“Municipal leaders and trusted community leaders introduced us to and helped organize informal gatherings where we were able to educate the residents about community solar. These meetings allowed us to break down barriers and mistrust of community solar, due in part to predatory business practices of retail energy suppliers over the past 15 years. We teamed up with the communities in Chatham, Austerlitz, Kinderhook, and Columbia County in the rural, agricultural belt of upstate New York to ensure that clean, affordable energy is accessible to all, especially lower-income households in rural parts of the state,” said Cara Humphrey, VP of Strategic Sales for Neighborhood Sun, who helped carry out the award-winning campaign.

Maryland: Affordable Housing & Solar Savings

We fully subscribed the Oaks Landfill Community Solar Farm this year, guaranteeing access to 25% savings on electricity costs for low- and moderate-income (LMI) residents, including 829 affordable homes owned by the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County.

Neighborhood Sun was founded in Montgomery County, Maryland so the opportunity to subscribe local LMI residents to a project within our very own community serves as proof that clean energy generation can be both local and community-oriented.

Built on 16 acres of repurposed landfill, the Oaks Landfill Community Solar Farm is dedicated 100% to serving local LMI residents, making it the largest project of its kind in the entire nation.

Chesapeake Climate Action Network's Polar Plunge

We are proud to say we go way back with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), and we are truly grateful for the work they do to help put us on a path to climate stability. In addition to sponsoring their anniversary event this year, we encourage our team members to fundraise for their organization’s Polar Plunge every year by jumping in the freezing water (Don’t worry, they love it!).

We all have a lot to gain from fellow grassroots environmentalist organizations uplifting each other. As our C.E.O. Gary Skulnik said, “There is no single piece of clean energy or climate legislation that has passed in Maryland, DC or Virginia since the year 2003 that CCAN hasn’t been the leader on. Without them, we’d be light-years behind where we are now.” Thank you CCAN!”

Impact on Environment

It's essential to remember that the actions we take to prevent pollution and protect the environment aren't just for the environment but also for ourselves. Our society needs energy to thrive, but it doesn't have to come at the expense of the rest of the resources we depend on like clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. We were recognized as "Best For The World 2022" in the Environment category this year for the second time in a row, meaning we ranked in the top 5% of B Corps globally in that category.

So, how exactly does the environment we depend on benefit from our business?

  1. We promote the preservation of the environment's health and conservation of non-renewable resources by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels through the local generation of renewable energy.
  2. We support other community organizations like environmentally-focused businesses and nonprofits through donations and partnerships.
  3. We demonstrate that renewable energy can be distributed in an equitable and accessible manner through community solar.
  4. We help scale the clean energy transition by allowing other companies to use our fully customizable SunEngine™ community solar software. SunEngine™ is revolutionizing the community solar space by providing a seamless way to acquire and manage the local households and businesses that subscribe to a community solar farm.
Preventing Carbon Emissions as a Team

During Earth Month, we partnered with Carbon Neutral Club to kick off our green employee benefits package so we could offer a variety of sustainability-related benefits to our team members that embody the values we all share at Neighborhood Sun.

Ultimately, we just want our team to know that while they are working hard every day to help communities achieve independence from fossil fuels, we’ve got their emissions covered, both inside and outside the office. As a result, our team removed 287.11 tonnes of Carbon emissions in 2022, equivalent to more than 317,000 pounds of coal NOT burned. Through Carbon Neutral Club, our team members also get access to discounts on vetted partner brands in their sustainable marketplace and educational resources related to reducing carbon emissions through daily activities.

Preventing Carbon Emissions as a Subscriber

In 2022, our community solar subscribers made it possible to add 117,249,144 kWh of renewable energy to the electric grid. By powering the grid with locally-generated solar energy instead of fossil fuels, we prevented 83,000+ Metric Tons of CO2-equivalent from polluting our air and heating up our atmosphere. That’s the same as preventing the emissions that would result from burning 93,076,253 pounds of coal.

Our subscribers also helped us advocate for legislation that would make it easier to support equitable access to clean energy throughout Maryland, New York, California, New Jersey, and New Mexico.

Preventing Carbon Emissions as an Investor

By holding a community fundraising round through WeFunder, we made our investment process more inclusive and democratic, allowing current subscribers, team members, and truly ANYONE who wants to help accelerate the clean energy transition to invest in an equitable renewable energy future for as little as $250.

We closed out the WeFunder round with nearly $2 Million in community investments from almost 2,000 community members of all kinds, including current subscribers, team members, and leaders in the corporate impact space like Seth Goldman, Co-founder of Honest Tea & Executive Chairman of Beyond Meat.

Impact on People

In 2022, we nearly doubled the size of our team for the second year in a row, closing out the year with 33 employees and many widely celebrated changes to our team’s benefits and policies. We also welcomed Shari Friedman to our Board of Directors and brought on stakeholders of all kinds as investors through our successful and inclusive community round on WeFunder.

So, how do the people in our solar community benefit from our business?

  1. We empower individuals to take impactful climate action and support their community, just by paying their monthly electricity bills.
  2. We make sure low- and moderate-income households who are impacted most severely by rising utility costs also have access to clean energy & increased savings, whenever possible.
  3. We help people live healthier lives by reducing pollution in their environment from fossil fuels and mitigating the devastating effects of climate change as much as possible.
  4. We provide lasting green jobs that contribute to the local economy without exploiting a community's resources.
  5. We bring community members together to ensure clean, affordable energy is accessible to all individuals, regardless of their income level or homeownership status.
Supporting Our Team Through New Benefits

As we grew quickly in 2022, we wanted to make sure we were keeping up with the evolving needs of our team, so we made a couple changes to our policies.

  1. We formalized a policy for mandatory phone interviews as a preliminary step to account for any unconscious bias and refined our first-ever team diversity survey.
  2. Due to popular demand, we altered our PTO policy to now include 3 sick days available per quarter that remain separate from vacation days.
  3. We added new benefits to our employee packages, such as paid carbon offsets through Carbon Neutral Club and full coverage of a gym membership for each team member.
Connecting With Our Community Through Volunteering

Fortunately, volunteering is embedded in our community solar business model, but our team really takes it to another level, both on and off the clock. As such, we launched a formal Team Volunteering Club at the beginning of 2022 to provide a sense of community and support for those self-driven volunteering efforts. In 2022, our team logged over 500 volunteering hours in the communities we live in and serve. We also offer 24 hours of paid volunteering time each year to be used as people wish.

As a team-driven effort to prepare for the holiday season, many of us traveled to 4MyCity in Baltimore (where this photo was taken on December 15) to help pack rescued food supplies and toys that the organization would deliver to families facing food insecurity in Baltimore City.

To me, the benefit of community solar and Neighborhood Sun, specifically, is that it’s the missing link required for a successful energy transition. Everyone wants to do something to help. The climate is changing and people want to be able to have an impact. Not everybody owns their own roof, so one of the pieces that I find so interesting, so impactful, and so motivating about community solar is that it enables anybody to participate in this energy transition– regardless of the size of their footprint or their homeownership status.
Shari Friedman, Neighborhood Sun's Newest Board Member

Goals

Looking to a Brighter Future

We’ve come a long way from where we started as 3 people in a room dreaming of the future of community solar, but we still have a lot to learn. One of our values is to “fail forward” because we are a company that experiments and is willing to try new approaches without a stack full of market research telling us what to do. We’ll make mistakes and certainly are not perfect, but we’re always willing to learn and listen to our community. We’re entrepreneurial and bold because we know that we’ve got a lot of work to do and time is running short. It’s better to learn from your failures than to never try something different.

As such, our goals for 2023 include:

  • Undergo recertification by B Lab as a B Corp for the second time
  • Double our MW under management
  • Expand into new states adopting community solar policy
  • Revamp our Customer Advocacy Board and Neighbor Benefit Fund to better support our subscribers

Public Benefits and Disclosures

This Impact Report offers evidence of the work Neighborhood Sun has done in 2022 to generate benefits for the public, both in the form of benefitting individuals and the environment simultaneously through our daily business activities. As a Public Benefit Corporation registered in Maryland, Neighborhood Sun is legally bound to use our business for the creation of general public benefit, defined as “a material, positive impact on society and the environment, as measured by a third–party standard, through activities that promote a combination of specific public benefits” and specific public benefits, which include the following:

  1. Providing individuals or communities with beneficial products or services
  2. Promoting economic opportunity for individuals or communities beyond the creation of jobs in the normal course of business
  3. Preserving the environment
  4. Improving human health
  5. Promoting the arts, sciences, or advancement of knowledge
  6. Increasing the flow of capital to entities with a public benefit purpose
  7. The accomplishment of any other particular benefit for society or the environment