Vermont Awarded $62 Million in Federal Solar Incentives | News – Seven Days

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  • File: Katie Futterman ©️ Seven Days
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at the Solar for All launch last year
Vermont will receive $62.4 million from a new federal program that’s aiming to make solar power more affordable for low-income people.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the award on Monday — Earth Day — as part of a $7 billion initiative called Solar for All.

The idea was championed by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), who kicked off the grant program in Waterbury last fall with EPA Administrator Michael Regan. The effort aims to help people transition away from fossil fuels and ensure working families can afford solar energy.

The funds for the program come from the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. The 60 grants announced Monday are expected to help 900,000 people nationwide  install solar panels.

Peter Sterling, executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont, called the solar award historic.

“There has never been anything on this scale in Vermont in terms of federal or state dollars to subsidize solar for low-income Vermonter,” Sterling told Seven Days.

He praised the state Department of Public Service for its application and Sanders for advocating for the expansion of equitable renewable energy in the state. 

The Department of Public Service asked for $100 million from the program. It proposed using it to support solar three ways: solar installations for homeowners, membership in community solar projects, and solar installations on affordable housing.

Without any rebates, it currently costs about $18,000 to install home solar panels in Vermont. The new program will allow people to install five kilowatt panels at no upfront cost and instead pay off a loan over six years. In some cases, residents can qualify for battery storage, too.

In addition to lowering people’s power bills, Sterling said new solar installations help reduce climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel plants in the region.

“Every time a Vermonter goes solar, it means less fossil fuels are burned to generate electricity in one of New England’s 64 oil and natural gas plants larger than 50MW, none of which are located in Vermont,” Sterling said in a statement.

The EPA estimated that the awards would eventually save low-income households $350 million annually in lower power bills and generate 200,000 jobs.

“The Solar for All program – legislation that I successfully introduced – will not only combat the existential threat of climate change by making solar energy available to working class families, it will also substantially lower the electric bills of Americans and create thousands of good-paying jobs,” Sanders said in a statement. “This is a win for the environment, a win for consumers, and a win for the economy.”

Sanders and President Joe Biden on Monday also announced the creation of the Vermont Climate Corps, “a workforce training and service initiative aimed at preparing young Americans for jobs in clean energy and climate resilience.” Vermont is one of just 13 states enrolled thus far in what’s known as the American Climate Corps.

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