White House Has Plans to Help Low-Income Communities Gain Access to Solar

Guest Blog | July 21, 2015 | Climate Change, Energy Policy, Solar

Angela Garrone, Southeast Energy Research Attorney with SACE, co-wrote this blog with Alissa Jean Schafer, SACE Solar Communications and Policy Manager.

In early July, the White House unveiled a new plan to help cut energy costs for low- and middle-income families. The new program would make it easier for people who lack startup capital, or who rent rather than own their homes, to invest in solar.

According to the Obama Administration, the United States brought as much solar energy online every three weeks in 2014 as it did in all of 2008. The solar industry added jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy, and one out of every 78 new jobs created in 2014 was in the solar industry. This positive growth and economic activity, combined with continuously lowering price for solar energy is part of the inspiration behind the Administration’s effort to increase access to solar in low-income communities. Historically, low-income communities have been economically unable to access clean energy resources, despite the fact that access to solar energy has the potential to provide affordable electricity to those who need it most. This newest initiative is just one piece in the Obama Administration’s efforts to confront, combat, and mitigate the threat of climate change. Ultimately, the Administration is aiming to triple the capacity of solar and other renewable energy that it installs in federally subsidized housing by 2020, and the Administration is striving to make it easier for homeowners to borrow money to install solar on their homes.

For those who rent, rather than own their homes, the Administration is planning to establish a nationwide program to help renters gain access to solar energy. The new National Community Solar Project will unlock access to solar for the almost 50% of households and business who rent or who do not have adequate roof space for solar panels. Solar access for federally subsidized housing is also part of the plan, with an ultimate goal of developing 300 MW of renewable energy in these communities.

Along with the Obama Administration’s efforts and more than $520 million in independent commitments from philanthropic investors and additional funding through AmeriCorps, states and cities have been dedicated to funding community solar projects and energy efficiency improvements for low- and moderate-income households. The solar industry is also setting its own goal of becoming the most diverse sector of the U.S. energy industry and aims to continue to add new job opportunities in communities across the nation.

Through these new programs, commitments, and dedicated funding, the United States is creating a clear path to deploy solar and create job growth in economically disadvantaged communities. With a comprehensive focus on both continued solar training and strategic financing, the Obama Administration’s solar energy initiative has the potential to effect ipositive change in communities in need by providing reliable, low cost solar energy, as well as creating new jobs and revitalizing local economies.

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