New White House initiative aims to boost access to solar

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, July 19, 2016 - The Obama administration on Tuesday announced a new cross government partnership - the Clean Energy Savings for All Initiative - to increase access to solar energy and promote energy efficiency across the country, particularly in low- and moderate- income communities.

The initiative, which involves the Departments of Energy (DOE), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Agriculture (USDA), Health and Human Services (HHS), Veteran's Affairs (VA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), also is designed to ensure that every household has options to choose to go solar.

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“The announcements … will result in lower energy bills, more empowered consumers, and cleaner communities,” the White House said in a fact sheet.

The plan will build on other actions the Obama administration has taken that have boosted solar electricity generation by 30-fold, resulting in solar jobs growing 12 times faster than the rest of the economy, according to the fact sheet.

To continue along this track, the administration, in collaboration with state agencies, is setting a new goal to bring 1 gigawatt (GW) of solar to low- and moderate- income families by 2020. This goal is a 10-fold increase and an expansion of the initial target President Obama set in his Climate Action Plan to install 100 MW of renewable energy on federally-assisted affordable housing by 2020.

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The goal will be achieved, the White House says, by promoting innovative financing mechanisms, bolstering technical assistance for states and communities, scaling up workforce training to make sure low- and moderate-income Americans can take advantage of the jobs that come with a transition to clean energy, and working with the private and philanthropic sectors.

 Among the key components of the initiative are:

• HUD and the VA are releasing new guidance to unlock residential Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing by outlining how properties with PACE assessments can be purchased and refinanced with FHA mortgage insurance and by welcoming the use of PACE financing for Veterans Affairs (VA)-insured mortgages. In addition, DOE is releasing a draft of their updated Best Practices Guidelines for Residential PACE Financing for public comment;

• DOE is developing a Community Solar Challenge that will award teams in dozens of communities up to $100,000, in cash prizes and technical assistance, to develop innovative models to increase solar deployment and cut communities' energy bills, in particular in low income communities;

• HHS and DOE are making it easier to use hundreds of millions of dollars for energy efficiency improvements by providing technical assistance to Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) grantees on their ability to access 15 - 25 percent of their annual LIHEAP funding for low cost energy efficiency improvements, including renewable energy;

• DOE is making sure low- and moderate-income Americans can take advantage of the jobs that come with a transition to clean energy by launching the Solar Training Network, which will help create a more inclusive workforce by connecting solar workforce trainers, solar employers, and individuals interested in working in the solar industry; and

• More than 120 housing authorities, rural electric co-ops, power companies, and organizations in more than 36 states across the country are committing to investing $287 million and putting in place more than 280 megawatts (MW) of solar energy projects, including projects to help low- and moderate- income communities save on their energy bills and further the deployment of community solar.


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