Lower income homes in Florida could get solar from federal funding – WFSU News

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Thousands of Floridians living in low- to-moderate-income and disadvantaged neighborhoods will receive rooftop solar power over the next five years.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday announced the $156,120,000 for solar panels on Florida roofs.

It’s from a $7 billion pot of the Solar for All program, in which 60 applicants were selected: 49 state-level awards, six awards to tribes and five multistate awards.

This is part of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund within the federal Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which has been described as the largest investment in reducing carbon pollution in U.S. history to combat climate change.

“Collectively, these programs will deliver on the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund’s objectives by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollution, delivering cost savings on electric bills for overburdened households, and unlocking new markets for distributed solar in 25 states and territories that have never had a statewide low-income solar program before,” the EPA’s website said.

Florida coalition

A coalition made up of the nonprofit organizations Solar and Energy Loan Fund, Solar United Neighbors and The Nature Conservancy applied for the solar grant in Florida.

About 10,000 single-family homes in the state will receive financial help installing rooftop solar — that’s out of 900,000 households across the country impacted by Solar for All.

“This is a great thing for Florida and a historic opportunity because we’re not putting debt on the backs of low-income people,” said Duanne Andrade, executive director of the green bank Solar and Energy Loan Fund (SELF), which has already been providing loans for rooftop solar outside of this federal funding.

With this EPA program, low-income households could have solar subsidized between 80% and a 100%, while those with a moderate income could be subsidized 60% to 80%.

Job creation

Andrade said people living in disadvantaged communities are not only getting clean, renewable energy, but this project could also spark job creation for solar installation across the state.

For example, Andrade said SELF is involved with a workforce development group in Tennessee, training mostly African Americans to do green jobs.

“A lot of them want to set up their own businesses, so we provide them with financing that they can use for their projects with no dealer fees at accessible costs, so they can create their own businesses,” she said.

“So, that’s just like a micro example of how we, by providing this accessible capital with no dealer fees with low costs, can also catalyze job creation, workforce development.”

Fossil fuel reliance

Florida had the chance to apply for Solar for All funding, but didn’t opt in.

“The state of Florida has not been particularly focused on advancing clean energy. And in fact, our energy policy has been exactly the opposite, where we’re heavily overreliant on fossil gas,” said Susan Glickman, a clean energy advocate for the nonprofit CLEO Institute. She’s also a board member for SELF.

She said that reliance on fossil fuels to make energy is behind the recent increase in electric bills, but that the historic solar funding will save people money on their bills, while helping to bring down the heat-trapping emissions from fossil fuels.

“I’ve been working on energy and climate issues for 24 years now, and I couldn’t be more grateful and excited to see the federal government unleashing and unlocking this incredible opportunity for people really all over the country,” Glickman said.

Justice40 Initiative

The ERA has a Justice40 Initiative lens on all of the federal funding, she said, in which 40% of the benefits should flow to historically marginalized communities.

“The Solar for All program really exemplifies that,” Glickman said.

The coalition will be identifying “overburdened and underserved” communities through an online EPA mapping tool, which is powered by census data.

But low-income homeowners in Florida can soon apply to be a part of this project.

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