Environment

A new partnership between Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Habitat for Humanity aims to lower utility bills for 10 low-income families across the state by gifting them shares in a community solar field in Shelby County.

LG&E’s solar share program is for ratepayers who want solar energy, but for whatever reason can’t install it on their own properties. The program lets them pay a fee for a share of a large solar field and get a credit on their utility bills for the solar energy that share generates.

Last week, Kentucky Habitat for Humanity announced it had subscribed to 180 of these solar shares. It will transfer these credits to 10 Habitat families across the state, and estimates they will offset up to 30 percent of the households’ energy usage.

Kentucky Habitat for Humanity Board Chair Lyle Hanna said the partnership is part of the organization’s mission to go beyond just helping families own their own homes and focus on other needs, too.

“Families that may own their own houses, but they’re having a hard time paying for all the things they have to pay for, they’re on fixed income or they’re retired or a variety of things like that,” he said.

LG&E Vice President of Customer Services Beth McFarland says all solar share participants can now give their energy credits to another person or a nonprofit.

“And I hope they’ll consider this as an option as they look to make some kind of impactful contribution to Habitat and other nonprofits across our service territory during the holiday season and really all year round,” she said.

This is the third phase of LG&E’s solar array; the first two 500-kilowatt sections are completed and fully subscribed. LG&E has been touting the project as a way to bring solar energy to more people in the area; at the same time, the utility successfully lobbied for a change to Kentucky’s net metering laws earlier this year that environmental advocates say will discourage residential rooftop solar.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.