Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Funding will support solar energy careers in underserved areas; A new digital platform will make reliable solar energy accessible
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Biden-Harris administration launched new initiatives through the US Department of Energy (DOE) to connect families to more reliable clean energy, lower electric bills and create good-paying jobs in the domestic solar industry. The DOE, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), announced that five states and Washington, DC will support a pilot version of a community solar subscription platform to connect families to solar energy and reduce electric bills through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program ( LIHEAP) and other low-income assistance programs. DOE also announced $10 million from President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill to jump-start solar energy careers in underserved communities. Today’s announcements support President Biden’s goal of achieving a carbon-free electricity industry by 2035 while creating good-paying jobs across the country.
“Every American community, especially those facing disproportionately higher energy burdens, deserves the economic and health benefits that come from better access to affordable clean energy,” he said. US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “That’s why DOE is working across the federal government to open up community solar, which will quickly lower electric bills for households that need it most and create good-paying jobs in every pocket of America.”
Connecting communities to solar power and reducing electricity bills
HHS’s LIHEAP program keeps families safe by helping eligible households with heating and cooling energy costs, bill payment assistance, energy crisis assistance, weather and energy-related home repairs. Going solar can help households across the country save money on their electric bills, but many Americans don’t have access to these benefits. A community solar system that allows multiple customers to use a shared solar power system provides a solution for individuals who cannot get rooftop solar panels. The DOE’s community solar goal is to power 5 million homes and provide a 20% savings on a subscriber’s energy bill, compared to today’s 10% average.
The community solar subscription platform is designed to connect community solar projects with proven cost savings to households participating in government assistance programs such as LIHEAP. The first pilot project will be supported by the states of Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Washington, DC These states will provide feedback, coordination and data to test the operability, security and performance of the platform. DOE has prioritized working with states that have existing programs to support low-income community solar development, so if successful, participants will see significant savings on their electric bills, including:
- 20% in Illinois, New Jersey, New York and New Mexico
- 50% in Washington, DC and Colorado
DOE estimates that this could lead to savings on electricity bills of up to:
- $240 million in Colorado
- $300 million in Illinois
- $175 million in New Jersey
- $30 million in New Mexico
- $400 million in New York
- $40 million in Washington, DC
Colorado Governor Jared Polis said, “I am proud to join the White House, the Department of Energy, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Health and Human Services in support of the Community Solar Platform. This innovative and exciting project is helping to lower electricity bills, save people money through expanded and simplified access to affordable community solar. This initiative will save Coloradans millions on their electric bills each year and reduce energy burdens across the state. That’s money better spent on groceries, rent, or taking the family out for fun. We are so excited to support this effort to save people money and accelerate Colorado’s journey to 100% renewable energy.”
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said, “Community solar programs are essential to the expansion of renewable energy in the state of Illinois and across the nation. That’s why I’m proud to continue our state’s leadership in growing the clean energy economy by adopting The National Community Solar Partnership’s LIHEAP Community Solar Subscription Platform. By supporting low-income communities that want to participate in this program, we can increase long-term energy efficiency and ensure effective access to energy-saving solar power for households in our state who need it most. In Illinois, we know an equity-focused approach that puts consumers and the climate first delivers results that will make our children live in a safer world.”
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said, “Through our participation in the Community Solar Subscription Platform, New Jersey is helping families across the state lower their energy costs. As the Department of Energy’s adviser on the design and operation of the platform, New Jersey will have the opportunity to ensure that the platform removes barriers to critical clean energy sources and benefits residents most at risk from the impacts of the climate crisis. It is critical collaborations like this that will help us provide every member of the community with ample opportunity to reap the benefits of a clean energy future.”
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said, “New Mexico is excited to participate in this pilot program that builds on my administration’s efforts to make solar energy accessible to all. Our LIHEAP eligible customers will see a 30% savings – that’s a game changer for New Mexico families.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul said, “New York is the leading community solar market in the US and has set an example of how states across the country can cost-effectively bring clean, affordable solar power to millions of families facing the burden of rising energy costs. We are proud to work with President Biden, his administration and many partners through this collaboration to ensure access to this innovative new resource for our most underserved customers.”
Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said: “When we work together as a nation on our climate goals, we have the ability to move together towards a better, greener and more sustainable future. We know that implementing a community solar system is critical to creating a future that supports healthy, renewable and sustainable living, and we are excited to join this effort. By working with property owners, especially affordable multi-family homes, and local businesses, we can ensure our future is clean and resilient. We are proud of the work we do here in DC and look forward to joining this statewide effort.”
National Community Solar Partnership DOE, HHS, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, National Energy Assistance Directors Association, and National Association of State Energy Officials are collaborating on the Community Solar Subscription Platform.
DOE also issued a request for information to solicit feedback on the structure of the platform from community organizations, community solar subscription managers and developers, state and local governments, researchers, LIHEAP implementing organizations, and others. Responses are due by August 31st at 5pm ET.
Creating a strong solar workforce
While the solar industry is already more diverse than national averages today, the Biden-Harris administration has invested $10 million through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act to ensure that the future solar workforce is equitable, inclusive and benefits people in underserved communities , who live near the projects. According to estimates in the DOE’s A study of the solar future, industry will need to create hundreds of thousands of quality jobs to achieve decarbonisation targets. These jobs should be accessible to workers from all backgrounds, provide competitive wages and benefits, and offer opportunities for union membership.
DOE’s Advancing Equity through Workforce Partnerships program will fund projects that support new workforce programs that bring together employers, training providers, and unions to support pathways to the solar industry to recruit, train, and retain an inclusive workforce. These programs will be demand-driven, worker- and sector-focused, and leverage established programs and workforce resources, be sustainable and replicable, and prioritize energy equity. By assessing the regional labor market and the current and future needs of employers, multi-stakeholder project teams can help ensure optimal alignment of various training programs with real industry needs.
Launch of the Community Solar Prize
To support the development of equitable community solar projects and programs, DOE is also launching the Sunny Awards for Equitable Community Solar, a new awards program that recognizes best practices in community solar that increase equitable access and ensure benefits to subscribers and their communities. Up to five finalists can win the Sunny Award and prizes of $10,000 per team.
Register for DOE’s informational webinar on the Community Solar Subscription Platform on August 2nd at 2pm ET.
Register for DOE’s informational webinar on the Advancing Equity through Workforce Partnerships funding opportunity on August 4 at 2:00 PM ET.
Register for DOE’s informational webinar on the Sunny Awards on August 18 at 3:00 PM ET.
Read more about the Solar Energy Technologies Office and the National Community Solar Partnership at DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
Courtesy of Energy.gov
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