Solar energy: New federal money coming to Pa., N.J. – WHYY

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Households with low income in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware will get more access to solar power in the coming years.

That’s the promise of the Biden administration’s Solar for All grants, announced Monday to mark Earth Day.

“Not just solar for some folks,” said White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi in a press briefing Friday. “Really making sure that we’re opening up a market where everybody, no matter their ZIP code or their economic background, can tap into the savings opportunity that clean energy represents.”

The grants, funded through the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, total $7 billion and will go to 49 state-level entities, six tribes and five multi-state projects. Officials estimate they’ll serve over 900,000 households.

The Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority will receive more than $156 million to put toward residential-serving solar, energy storage and infrastructure upgrades to enable solar. The projects will focus on low-income and disadvantaged communities, including so-called energy communities, where a significant number of jobs and local tax revenue are tied to fossil fuel-related energy projection.

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The authority will put some of the money toward workforce development, with the goal of helping people who previously worked in the fossil fuel industry transition to jobs in the solar and energy efficiency fields.

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities will also receive more than $156 million and will focus on addressing the barriers it has identified that stop low-income families in the state from adopting solar. The board plans to spend the money bolstering solar on homes, multifamily buildings and community solar, as well as provide technical assistance and workforce training. Community solar allows multiple households to join together and invest in a solar array. It’s an option for renters or homeowners who cannot afford the upfront cost of their own solar systems.

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities estimates its Solar for All grant will serve tens of thousands of low-income households.

No state-level entity in Delaware will receive Solar for All money directly, but the state is listed as a possible recipient of funds under a multi-state project led by the Clean Energy Fund of Texas and Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice at Texas Southern University that will focus on minority-serving institutions. It’ll fund residential-serving community solar projects in low-income communities and projects that power community resilience centers, according to the EPA.

Biden administration officials say the projects funded with the Solar for All grants will save households nationwide over $350 million annually on energy bills.

“I’m … looking forward to these funds getting out into the community, giving people skills, putting them to work in their local communities and allowing people to save on their energy bills so that they could put those dollars to other needs — a child’s college fund or that car repair or medical bill,” said Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe during Friday’s briefing. “We’re saving families money, protecting public health, creating good-paying jobs and building a cleaner and healthier future where solar technology is affordable and accessible for all.”

The Biden administration also announced the first jobs available through its American Climate Corps on Monday. They include three listings in Philadelphia: an urban forestry fellowship, a solar panel installation internship and a green stormwater infrastructure fellowship. All three would begin in late July and last several months, paying $15 to $16 per hour. Applications are due July 1.

Activists from Philly were among those that pushed for the creation of the Climate Corps.

No Climate Corps jobs have been posted in Delaware or New Jersey yet.

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