When the Legislature directed part of the California Solar Initiative subsidies to low-income dwellings, Democrat Fran Pavley, the author of the bill, and her colleagues left it to the California Public Utilities Commission to sort out the details. But there were many gaps. \u201cIt\u2019s not something anyone\u2019s ever done before,\u201d said Zach Franklin, GRID Alternatives development director, of the solar installations on the dwellings of struggling households. GRID Alternatives is an Oakland-based non-profit that helps low-income homeowners install solar panels--a sort of Habitat for Humanity with photovoltaics. While watching photovoltaic panels be handed bucket-brigade-style to the roof of an under-construction townhouse in East Oakland, Franklin explained the CPUC\u2019s Energy Division sought out his organization to administer that part of the state\u2019s solar initiative. In a minority enclave, the photovoltaic brigade stood out for its shortage of minority workers. The set-aside for low income home installations is approximately $108 million over the program\u2019s 10-year life, representing 5 percent of the total California Solar Initiative budget. The actual amount of incentives the CPUC issues in a given year varies with the program uptake. The numbers have started off low and are expected to grow in the later years. At first utilities wanted to be in charge, but regulators decided to hand the administration to community-based organizations, he noted. When the Legislature required that the California Solar Initiative funds also be available to low-income homeowners, it didn\u2019t realize that a method for finding interested low-income homeowners was lacking, Franklin said. \u201cThere was no data base.\u201d The data are being compiled by the California Housing Partnership. The organization maintains a database of federally-subsidized housing in the state. GRID Alternatives is tapping into that data, along with its previous mainstays, working with faith-based organizations and using other non-high-tech organizing methods. It coordinates with Habitat for Humanity and \u201cgreen\u201d jobs training organizations. \u201cSolar isn\u2019t just for rich people,\u201d Franklin said. Franklin concedes that as much as his organization did know three years ago--aggregating subsidies for solar roofs, doing outreach in low-income communities, and networking with corporations and other donors--even GRID Alternatives was a small time operator. In the last year, it\u2019s not only garnered funding from outside sources, as well as state subsidies, but it\u2019s building a data- and community-base for alternative energy that was heretofore unknown. With the backing of the CPUC and state solar plans, a smallish non-governmental organization is blossoming. Last year, the organization\u2019s budget was $3.2 million, according to Franklin. This year it\u2019s set to be $7.4 million. It\u2019s not an easy niche. \u201cWe\u2019re dealing with people who are struggling financially to make ends meet. On top of that, we\u2019re asking them to allow solar\u201d on their homes, he said. \u201cThere\u2019s a lot of distrust,\u201d noted Franklin. GRID Alternatives does the paperwork for solar subsidies, as well as attempting to find other means of support, like grants, to finance installations. The non-profit only deals with first-time low-income homeowners. They are usually in the first tier of bill payment schedules, he said. Those who use less electricity also pay less for it under the tier structure set by the CPUC. Thus, scraping up $40\/month for electric bills may be onerous. This program wipes out, for the most part, that payment, Franklin notes. Homeowners still have to pay ancillary costs to remain on the grid, including the line item for public purpose programs that ultimately pays for the solar installations on their dwellings. Mainstream subsidies don\u2019t work for those in the first tier--those who scrimp on energy because of limited funds. For instance, the 30 percent federal tax credit doesn\u2019t do much for those who have little or no tax obligation. Thus, GRID Alternatives compiles subsidies, visits homeowners, and not only gets them to sign up, but finds volunteers to install their systems.