Guiding principles: Community Engagement
Barriers addressed: Compatibility and Integration, Market Forces
The White House, as well as federal agencies like the Department of Energy (DOE), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), have recognized and voiced the importance and positive impact of low-income solar programs. Dedicated funding from federal sources for low-income solar programs has been largely absent, but a few partnerships have formed to ensure best practices sharing between jurisdictions looking to or in the process of implementing low-income solar programs. Partnerships with federal agencies are very valuable because they help provide impetus at a national level for making state- and local-level solar policies more inclusive of low-income families. Below are a few of the national efforts underway in support of low-income solar programs.
- In July 2015, the Obama Administration, in partnership with the DOE SunShot Initiative, announced the National Community Solar Partnership to increase access to solar energy for all Americans, in particular low- and moderate- income communities, while expanding opportunities to join the solar workforce. In July 2016, the Obama Administration announced the Clean Energy Savings for All Americans Initiative, which will work to ensure that every household has options to choose to go solar and put in place additional measures to promote energy efficiency. To continue along this track, the Administration, in collaboration with state agencies, announced a new catalytic goal to bring 1 gigawatt (GW) of solar to low- and moderate-income families by 2020.
- HUD’s Renew300 initiative tripled the federal renewable energy target set for federally assisted housing in the President’s Climate Action Plan from 100 megawatts to 300 megawatts. This initiative provides technical assistance to educate affordable housing owners about the broad benefits and opportunities that solar energy provides. With updated commitments made in July 2016, the initiative is on track to install 344 MW of solar by 2020, exceeding the updated 202 goal, and far surpassing the President’s target in the Climate Action Plan to install 100 megawatts (MW) of solar and other types of renewable energy in Federally subsidized housing by 2020.
- As part of the DOE’s Better Buildings Challenge to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020, the Housing Authority of the City and County of Denver partnered with a number of organizations to both develop and finance a project that brought photovoltaic solar to 387 affordable housing buildings throughout the city. Announced May 2016, the DOE’s Better Buildings Clean Energy in Low Income Communities Accelerator supports the President’s Climate Action Plan with a goal to accelerate investment in home energy efficiency improvement projects across the country. The focus of the collaboration is to lower energy bills in low-income communities through expanded installation of energy efficiency and distributed renewables. The program will encourage the development of innovative partnerships, best practices and funding models that a state-level agency, local government or utility program could deploy for communities that need it most.
- DOE and HUD partnered with the U.S. Department of Education in developing STEM, Energy, and Economic Development (SEED): Coalitions for Community Growth, an innovative place-based initiative to create economic opportunity and energy-literate communities. SEED’s focus is on inspiring public housing residents around the country to pursue careers in energy, and preparing them to join its labor force. The SEED initiative links existing federal investments and activities to local coalitions to expand or launch programs based on energy literacy, STEM Education, and job-driven skills training.
- The EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants under the Clean Air Act may be an opportunity for low-income solar programs. Under the CPP, the EPA established new limits on carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector, and requires states to develop their own compliance plans for meeting those standards. In some states, the implementation and planning process may create opportunities for more low-income solar investments over time.
Notably, in the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP), the EPA is providing additional incentives to encourage states to invest in programs that make energy efficient property, including solar, more accessible to low-income communities.
The CPP and CEIP represent one of the largest opportunities to continue the support and vision to make the clean energy economy more accessible to all families and communities.