DOE Introduces New Solar Initiatives for Families, Solar Energy Job Support

Through the U.S. Department of Energy, the Biden-Harris administration has launched new initiatives to connect families with more reliable clean energy, lower electricity costs, and create good-paying employment in the domestic solar industry. DOE, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), has announced the five states and Washington, D.C. that will support the pilot of the Community Solar Subscription Platform to connect families to solar energy and lower electricity bills through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and other low-income assistance programs. DOE also announced $10 million from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to jump-start solar energy careers in underserved communities.

“Every American community, especially those that face disproportionately higher energy burdens, deserves the economic and health benefits that come with increased access to affordable clean energy,” says U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “This is why DOE is working across the federal government to open up community solar that will rapidly lower electricity bills for households that need it most and create good paying jobs in every pocket of America.”  

HHS’s LIHEAP program keeps families safe by assisting eligible households with their heating and cooling energy costs, bill payment assistance, energy crisis assistance, weatherization, and energy-related home repairs. Although switching to solar energy can save households money on their electricity bills across the country, many Americans are unable to do so. Individuals who are unable to get rooftop solar panels can benefit from community solar. This allows them to share in the benefits of a shared solar energy system. DOE’s community solar target is to power five million homes and provide 20% savings on a subscriber’s energy bills, up from 10% on average today.

“I’m proud to join the White House, Department of Energy, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Department of Health and Human Services in support of the community solar subscription platform,” says Colorado Gov. Jared Polis. “This innovative and exciting project helps lower electricity bills, save people money through expanded and streamlined access to affordable community solar subscriptions. This initiative will reduce the state’s energy burdens by saving millions of dollars every year and save Coloradans millions in electricity bills. That’s money better spent on groceries, on rent, or on taking the family out for fun. We are so thrilled to support this effort to save people money and accelerate Colorado’s pathway to 100 percent renewable energy.”

The Community Solar Subscription Platform connects community solar projects that have proven cost savings to households who are enrolled in government-run assistance programs such as LIHEAP. The states of Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, New York, and Washington, D.C. will support the pilot. These states will provide input, coordination, data and feedback to ensure the platform’s security, operability, and performance. DOE has prioritized working closely with states that have existing programs that support low income community solar development. Participants will experience significant electricity bill savings, including 20% for New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, and Illinois; and 50% for Washington, D.C., Colorado. DOE estimates that this could result in electric bill savings of up $240 million in Colorado, $300million in New Jersey, $175million in New Mexico, $30 million, $400 million, New York, and $40 million in Washington, D.C.

“Community solar programs are essential to the expansion of renewable energy across the state of Illinois and the entire nation,” mentions Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker. “That’s why I’m proud to continue our state’s nation-leading work to grow the clean energy economy by adopting The National Community Solar Partnership’s LIHEAP Community Solar Subscription Platform. This program will help us increase energy efficiency and provide affordable solar energy to the most vulnerable households in our state by supporting low-income communities that want to take part. In Illinois, we know an equity-centric approach that puts consumers and climate first delivers results that will leave our children a safer world live in.”

DOE’s National Community Solar Partnership, HHS, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, National Energy Assistance Directors Association, and the National Association of State Energy Officials are collaborating on the Community Solar Subscription Platform.

“Through our participation in the Community Solar Subscription Platform project, New Jersey is helping families across the state reduce energy costs,” states New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. “As an advisor to the Department of Energy on the design and function of the platform, New Jersey will have the opportunity to ensure that the platform eliminates barriers to critical clean energy resources and benefits residents most vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis. It’s crucial collaborations like these that will help us provide every community member with ample opportunities to reap the benefits of a clean energy future.”

DOE also issued a Request for Information in order to receive feedback from community-based organizations and community solar subscription managers, developers, state and local governments and researchers, as well as other organizations involved in LIHEAP implementation. By August 31st, 5 p.m., responses are due ET.

“New Mexico is excited to participate in this pilot program, which builds on my administration’s efforts to make solar available to everyone,” comments New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “Our LIHEAP-eligible customers will see savings of 30 percent – that’s a gamechanger for New Mexico families.”

DOE’s Advancing Equity through Workforce Partnerships program will fund projects that support new workforce programs that bring together employers, training providers and labor unions to support pathways to the solar industry to recruit, train and retain an inclusive workforce. These programs will be worker-centric, sector-based and demand-driven. They will make use of existing workforce programs and other resources, be sustainable, replicable, and prioritize energy justicia. Multi-stakeholder project groups can help ensure that different training programs are aligned with the needs of industry by assessing the regional labor market.

“New York is the leading community solar market in the U.S. and has set an example for how states around the country can cost-effectively bring clean, affordable solar energy to millions of families who are facing the burden of rising energy costs,” says New York Gov. Kathy Hochul. “We are proud to work with President Biden, his administration, and the many partners through this collaboration to ensure our most underserved customers have access to this innovative new resource.”

DOE has launched the Sunny Awards for Equitable Community Solar. This award program recognizes best practices in community and solar to increase equity and ensure benefits to subscribers and communities. Each team can win a Sunny Award with $10,000 and up to five finalists.

“When we as a nation work together toward our climate goals, we have the ability to move collectively toward a better, greener, and more sustainable future,” concludes Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser. “We know that the implementation of community solar is critical to creating a future that promotes healthy, renewable, and sustainable living, and we are pleased to join the effort. We can make sure that our future is bright and resilient by working with property owners, particularly multifamily affordable homes, as well as local businesses. We are proud of the work we are doing here in DC and look forward to joining in this nationwide effort.”

Image: Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash