Biden dishes out $7 billion for low-income households to go solar – Emerging Tech Brew

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The Biden administration celebrated Earth Day by doling out $7 billion worth of grants for solar projects across close to a million low-income households.

The funding, part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Solar For All” grant competition made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act, will go to 60 selectees across states, municipalities, tribal governments, and nonprofits to help residents in poorer communities go solar. The news kicks off a host of announcements to come throughout the week that will tout the president’s climate record.

Tech Brew spoke with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm about the strategy behind the grants and how the administration is thinking about solar energy more broadly as part of President Biden’s goal to transition the country away from carbon-based power by 2035.

Granholm said the goal of this week’s grants is to help close a gap in who tends to install solar panels and help those who could use the power savings most take the plunge.

“It’s clear that solar panels have largely been taken up by wealthier homeowners, either they buy them or they lease them,” Granholm said. “It’s unfortunate that the message about leasing at least hasn’t really trickled across to families that may have lower incomes, because even if you pay a lease payment, it can still be lower than your energy bill to begin with. That’s part of the impetus behind Solar For All: making sure we reduce people’s energy bills on average.”

Granholm claimed that, if the country stays on its current trajectory, “it looks like 80% of our grid [will be] clean by 2030,” a target set by the Biden administration and a rapid rise from 29% currently. Solar, she said, is the fastest-growing component.

“That’s very exciting. And we want to pair it with storage both on utility scale, as well as on that residential rooftop, so that it’s more like baseload, reliable, clean power, which, of course, if you add storage, it is like that,” Granholm said. “So we’re going to continue to see this trajectory rise.”

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The grants also come as some states, like California, have cut back on solar incentives amid a glut of solar power and a mismatch between periods of demand and production, according to the Washington Post. A focus on energy storage technology could help to alleviate some of these inefficiencies, and energy transmission and interconnection with the grid are top priorities, Granholm said.

“As a country, we have a huge amount of solar capacity. The question is, Do we have enough solar installed to be able to capture all of that potential, and then is there storage attached to that solar to make it round the clock?” Granholm said. “And can we make sure that the utility-scale storage actually has a long duration of 10 hours or more? That’s part of the technology work that we are doing at the Department of Energy is to ensure that we can have long-duration energy storage over 10 hours at a price that is 80% lower than what we’re currently spending on it.”

Granholm said the new grants will also help to distribute solar power more widely to areas that have yet to take advantage of these kinds of programs.

“We want to make sure that solar is getting to places where it has not been, and that’s why targeting, in particular, disadvantaged communities, tribes, communities of color, is really very much the priority of this grant program,” Granholm said.

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