Low-income communities will soon get $7 billion for local solar – Canary Media

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One of the Inflation Reduction Act’s most potentially transformative programs is close to being finalized — and now we have a window into how it could take shape.

States are vying for a share of a historic $7 billion in federal funding to help low-income families access clean solar power. This program, Solar for All, is poised to benefit more than 700,000 low-income households across the nation, according to a new analysis from the nonprofit Clean Energy States Alliance, shared exclusively with Canary Media.

Solar for All is a competitive grant program created under the IRA’s $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. Administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Solar for All aims to deliver the savings, resiliency and health benefits of small-scale solar and solar-plus-storage systems to low-income households and households in disadvantaged communities.

This is the biggest low- and moderate-income solar investment in U.S. history,” Vero Bourg-Meyer, CESA senior project director, said. It has the potential to be truly transformational.”

Inequity has been a long-standing issue when it comes to residential solar adoption. In 2022, the median income for a solar household was about $117,000 per year — or 70 percent higher than the U.S. median household income of $69,000, according to research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Low-income households also spend a greater proportion of their income on energy bills: on average, 8.6 percent, or nearly three times higher than other households. That’s a burden rooftop solar or community solar could help alleviate.

To help close the solar-equity gap, the EPA plans to announce up to 60 awards next month to support Solar for All programs across the U.S. that would help participants save 20 percent or more on energy bills. States, territories, tribal governments, municipalities and eligible nonprofits submitted their applications last October. (EPA has not disclosed the total number of applications received, according to CESA.)

CESA’s new report, which analyzes Solar for All applications from 33 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, is the first to show how applicants plan to use the funds to advance energy equity. CESA focused only on state- and territory-wide programs, which it says will be able to leverage resources, experience and existing programs that make them likely recipients.

There’s no guarantee that every application CESA analyzed will be funded, but if they were, here’s what it would look like: The $6 billion in statewide programs would unleash 2,917 megawatts of new solar-generation capacity, serve 711,068 low-income and disadvantaged households, and save them $2 billion over the next five years.

Most applicants plan to create low-income solar programs — or expand existing ones — that encompass single-family, multifamily and community solar, the latter of which lets customers reap solar savings by subscribing to offsite arrays.

(CESA)

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