How to Engage Contractors in Solar for All Programs


By Hannah Keenan

July 9, 2024

Knowledgeable and engaged contractors will be critical to supporting state Solar for All programs and driving participation nationwide.

Contractors who are well-informed about a program’s requirements and benefits to property owners are valuable messengers to potential participants. So, program administrators should ensure contractors and property owners understand the program’s offerings, requirements to participate, and expectations to remain eligible and receive an incentive.

Here are a few best practices, based on 50+ years of combined experience the Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) and Clean Power Research have in designing, administering and creating software for large-scale solar and energy storage programs nationwide.


Develop a diverse pool of eligible contractors

Recruiting contractors requires marketing and outreach via business groups, professional associations, community-based organizations and other channels. Some of the channels used by the Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH) Program, a $1 billion solar equity program in California, include:


Make it simple to participate

Good program design will include simple eligibility requirements. Solar for All programs can also offer contractors training in how the program works to ensure contractors are ready to participate. For example, SOMAH holds regular, required training webinars covering program eligibility, worksite safety and services provided by the SOMAH program administrator. Eligible contractors seeking an installation-only role can participate as a subcontractor to an eligible primary contractor.


Address known barriers to contractor participation

For example, multiunit affordable housing property owners and small- to medium-sized contracting firms may not have sufficient cash to complete a long project if the incentive payout doesn’t come until the very end. Financing options such as power purchase agreements, bridge financing or milestone payments can address this issue.


Provide ongoing engagement

Ongoing engagement can quickly surface problems and challenges the program administrator needs to address. Engagement can also help contractors see the opportunities Solar for All programs can provide in helping them find work. For example, the SOMAH Program has an online tool to help contractors find leads.

Developing a robust list of stakeholders, including contractors, for targeted email outreach helps interested parties stay up to date on the program.


Promote workforce development

Local solar contractors will need a readily available workforce. Solar for All programs should partner with job training and apprenticeship programs to create a path to earn a family-sustaining wage as solar installers, system designers, project managers or in other green economy careers.

Another step toward advancing equitable economic opportunity, which CSE has taken, is to require job training for all program-funded projects and encourage contractors to hire from within the community or property where the installation is taking place.

For this to be successful, Solar for All programs should make it easy for contractors to understand and comply with program prevailing wage and job apprenticeship requirements by providing contractor training, guidance and resources. Programs could also include an optional extra incentive for contractors who conduct on-the-job training and ensure that training opportunities are paid.


Offer no-cost technical assistance

The complexities of lining up financing, choosing a contractor and applying for rebates can dissuade property owners from even considering solar.

That’s why it will be important to proactively connect with both contractors and property owners who have expressed interest in a Solar for All program but haven’t applied to see if technical assistance would bridge the gap.

This support can be offered at no cost or via loans or grants. Technical assistance services, including cost/benefit analyses, assessment of a property’s solar viability, and identification of cost-effective energy efficiency upgrades, make it easier for both property owners and contractors to participate in a Solar for All program.


Use a construction progress tracker

Large-scale solar projects can run into multiple hurdles including supply chain woes, labor shortages, engineering challenges and permit and inspection delays. Any one of these can stall progress and leave funds sitting instead of working to achieve solar equity.

As part of the program design process, Solar for All grant recipients should consider whether to include a qualitative and/or quantitative assessment of construction readiness as part of the project eligibility guidelines. CSE has found that a tiered application selection process that prioritizes shovel-ready projects is an important program element for the community to see tangible impacts quickly.

Solar for All funding recipients and program administrators will also need visibility on progress toward construction milestones. An automated construction progress tracking system can monitor project progress through the multistage permitting, construction and interconnection processes. Applicants benefit from automated reminders of approaching deadlines and streamlined communication. State agencies and program administrators benefit from reduced volume of customer support calls, an early warning of projects facing delays and insights into recurring pain points to inform technical assistance and program or policy changes.


Contractor engagement and participation in Solar for All programs should be fundamental to program design and implementation. By recognizing contractors as an asset to the program, administrators can use regular engagement and technical assistance to address barriers and improve program results.

Solar for All Playbook


Government employees can get a copy of our Solar for All Playbook for more tips on launching a successful solar equity program.

Download the playbook here.

Hannah Keenan

Senior Manager

Read more by Hannah Keenan