My return visit to Pittsburgh for my second Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Sojourn bike tour on the Great Allegheny Passage reaffirmed for me the stupidity of Donald Trump’s justification for abandoning the Paris Climate Agreement, that he was elected by the people of Pittsburgh, not the people of Paris, and that what Pittsburghers want more than anything is to roll back time a century to the days when coal was king and steel mills were belching putrid smoke and men died prematurely in horrid working conditions, their lives under the thumb of Robber Barons who controlled industry and politics. Indeed, the people of Pittsburgh voted 75% for Hillary Clinton’s agenda and vision of America’s future.
But Trump’s entire agenda, beginning with a budget that would similarly reverse course on the very infrastructure and technology developments that would insure America’s leadership in the 21st century, rather than put us back a century.
We get a glimpse of what that is like on the outskirts of the city, in Clairton, where a huge mound of coal dwarfs a tractor truck, and across the bridge over the rail lines, is a chemical plant emitting a foul smell that penetrates the modest residential neighborhood across the street.
The city of Pittsburgh, itself, has risen anew, with glistening office towers and a new economy based on finance, health care, academics, robotics and technology. Its waterfront, once dominated by dirty industrial plants, is now a gorgeous bike path, which you can see so spectacularly from Mount Washington, the place from which George Washington surveyed to find a location to put a fort to protect British colonial interests, but from which in those bad ol’ days, the city would have been shrouded in haze.
Outside the city, where we start our bike tour near the beginning of the 150-mile long multi-purpose railtrail, in the state which built its economy on oil, coal and gas, there are windmills on the hilltops and solar farms in fields. Where we camp one night, in Confluence below the Youghiogheny River Reservoir dam built in 1944 to control flooding, the outflow has been tapped for hydroelectric power.
The biketrail – representing 150 of some 23,000 miles of similarly repurposed railtrails across the country – is a new lifeline for small towns like Meyersdale, which once supported six hotels, an elementary school and a high school, now all shuttered, and Dunbar, once a center for glassmaking and coal production. In Confluence, where the population today is 700, we add 200 to that roll during our stay.
The Trump agenda – and his budget to back it up – would cancel out the line for funding such repurposing projects that has existed since 1991, while eliminating incentives that helped jumpstart America’s fledgling clean, renewable energy industry where jobs are growing at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the economy. The 374,000 now employed in solar eclipse the 74,000 people working as coal miners, indeed, exceed all the workers in oil, gas and coal combined; while wind energy employed 100,000. Worldwide – and places like Europe which are legions ahead of the US in wind and solar – some 10 million people are employed in clean renewable energy jobs.
At the same time, the Trump Administration – EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke – are sloping the playing field back in favor of climate-destroying fossil fuel industry, rolling back regulations that would allow coal mining companies to pollute water, removing protections on drilling and mining on federal lands, opening up exports of natural gas and oil, creating financial incentives for new nuclear plants, and ending tax credits for renewable energy, among a long, long list. Trump wants to really stick it to climate activists.
Trump’s promise to invest $1 trillion in America’s aging, decaying and obsolete infrastructure is also a sham – as evidenced by his Transportation director exiting the New York-New Jersey Hudson Gateway Tunnel project, and a budget that would rescind funding to rebuild the century-old tunnel.
One contrasts this myopia from the guy who boasted of being a “builder” with the bicentennial of the building of the Erie Canal, in 1817, a bold vision and engineering marvel, which quite literally made New York City the financial capital of the world by connecting the port of New York to the Midwest’s resources and markets with Europe. Even then, globalization, not isolation, is what made the United States a world power.
It’s not just the belching, choking pollution that Trump would like to go back to. In climate policy, energy policy, health care, tax reform, and now infrastructure, Trump envisions exacerbating the divide between rich and poor – and therefore political power as campaign finance and special interests increasingly determine who gets the “ear” in policy. His budget affirms his bias against transitioning away from a climate-destroying carbon energy economy in favor of clean, renewable, decentralized (and cheaper, less monopolistic) energy. His regulatory policy reverses the incentives as well as the progress. The Republican health care policy is as much a mechanism to cement power in the hands of the “haves” versus the have-nots – who are unlikely to challenge abusive employers if they are afraid of losing their health insurance; unable to join protest marches and rallies if they are in pain or suffering; and unable to have their concerns acted on by lawmakers if they don’t have the funds to contribute to campaigns.
Infrastructure, energy policy, the environment, technological innovation and prospects for economic growth, prosperity, social mobility and yes, political power are all connected. Climate justice, social justice, economic justice, political justice are all intertwined.
Trump would have us go back a century or two and cost the United States its global leadership.
In response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo joined California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., and Washington State Governor Jay R. Inslee in forming the United States Climate Alliance, a coalition that will convene U.S. states committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement and taking aggressive action on climate change.
“The White House’s reckless decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement has devastating repercussions not only for the United States, but for our planet. This administration is abdicating its leadership and taking a backseat to other countries in the global fight against climate change,” said Governor Cuomo. “New York State is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Accord regardless of Washington’s irresponsible actions. We will not ignore the science and reality of climate change which is why I am also signing an Executive Order confirming New York’s leadership role in protecting our citizens, our environment, and our planet.”
New York, California, and Washington, representing over one-fifth of U.S. Gross Domestic Product, are committed to achieving the U.S. goal of reducing emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan.
“The President has already said climate change is a hoax, which is the exact opposite of virtually all scientific and worldwide opinion,” said Governor Brown. “I don’t believe fighting reality is a good strategy – not for America, not for anybody. If the President is going to be AWOL in this profoundly important human endeavor, then California and other states will step up.”
“I am proud to stand with other governors as we make sure that the inaction in D.C. is met by an equal force of action from the states,” said Governor Inslee. “Today’s announcement by the president leaves the full responsibility of climate action on states and cities throughout our nation. While the president’s actions are a shameful rebuke to the work needed to protect our planet for our children and grandchildren, states have been and will continue to step up.”
Together, New York, California, and Washington represent approximately 68 million people – nearly one-in-five Americans – and the states account for at least 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. California will continue to work closely together with other states to help fill the void left by the federal government.
With input from all participants, the U.S. Climate Alliance will also act as a forum to sustain and strengthen existing climate programs, promote the sharing of information and best practices, and implement new programs to reduce carbon emissions from all sectors of the economy.
New York’s Climate Leadership
Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions: Established ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to reduce emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. These targets have made New York a leader across the country in fighting climate change.
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI): Spearheaded the formation of the successful RGGI cap-and-trade program between northeast and mid-Atlantic states, led effort to reduce RGGI’s carbon emission cap by 45 percent in 2014, and recently called for an additional cap reduction of at least 30 percent between 2020 and 2030.
Reforming the Energy Vision: Established a comprehensive energy strategy to make the vision for a clean, resilient, and affordable energy system a reality, while actively spurring energy innovation, attracting new jobs, and improving consumer choice.
Clean Energy Standard: Established the most comprehensive and ambitious clean energy mandate in the state’s history, requiring that 50 percent of electricity in New York come from renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2030.
Clean Energy Fund: Established a $5 billion fund that is jump-starting clean-tech innovation, mobilizing private investment, capitalizing the nation’s largest Green Bank, and helping eliminate market barriers to make clean energy scalable and affordable for all New Yorkers.
Coal-Free New York: Committed to close or repower all coal-burning power plants in New York to cleaner fuel sources by 2020.
Offshore Wind: Approved the nation’s largest wind energy project off the Long Island coast in 2017 and made an unprecedented commitment to develop up to 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030.
On January 25, activists who have been fighting for decades for clean, renewable energy in order to end our society’s dangerous addiction to fossil fuels, are hoping they will finally be able to pop the champagne corks when the Long Island Power Authority Board approves a power purchase agreement for off-shore wind power for the East End.
Indeed, just a week after the Block Island Wind Farm began producing power, New York labor unions, civic and environmental organizations and elected officials hosted a rally outside of Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) praising LIPA for expressing support of offshore wind power and its anticipated vote on Jan. 25 to move forward on the nation’s largest offshore wind project. Over 100 gathered in front of LIPA, in the largest show of Long Island’s support for offshore wind to date.
Located off the east end of Long Island, Deepwater Wind’s 90-megawatt, 15-turbine project will produce enough energy to power about 50,000 Long Island homes by 2022. This pivotal decision, opening a new era for Long Island’s energy economy, would eliminate the need for LIPA to build a new fossil fuel-fired plant to meet the region’s energy needs. Keep in mind that Long Island officials keep saying the impediment to businesses coming here are the high energy costs.
Now the activists are calling on LIPA to move forward on the Island-Wide renewable energy Request for Proposal in early 2017 which could include another 210 MW of offshore wind off of Long Island’s south fork. (Europe already generates 12,100 megawatts of off-shore wind energy).
Meanwhile, in the waning days of the Obama Administration (and not a moment too soon), the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), awarded Statoil Wind US LLC, a private company from Norway that specializes in oil and gas, the lease to develop an off-shore wind farm on 80,000 acres some 12 miles off of Long Island’s south shore. Statoil’s $42.5 million bid beat out NYSERDA, the New York State energy research development agency, which had wanted to win so it could be the lead agency and expedite development of off-shore windpower for New York.
The project could provide 800 megawatts of offshore wind power in an area 17 miles south of the Rockaway Peninsula.
Now that it will be the domain of a private company, New York customers- like LIPA and Con Ed – will likely have to compete with New Jersey and others. LIPA needs to lock in supply, with a Power Purchase Agreement and details on where the company can run its cables on to shore, and do so before the Trumpsters try to overturn the lease altogether. Recall this is the same area where a private company wanted to site the Port Ambrose Liquified Natural Gas facility, which would have shut down the possibility of any wind farm.
The incoming Trump Administration’s determination to reverse course on a transition to clean, renewable energy, and return us to dependency on fossil fuels – no matter the impact on climate, the environment and ecology, no matter how it basically indentures residents and businesses to ever higher prices for energy, no matter how it endangers national security – means it will be up to the states to continue progress.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has set a goal of producing 50% of New York’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and 80% by 2050, with an ultimate goal of 100%. Developing offshore wind power – and a wholly new industry for Long Island – is essential for achieving those targets, along with solar, geothermal and hydro power sources (East Hampton has passed legislation that it would get 100 percent of its electricity from clean, renewable sources.)
Governor Cuomo made major news during his State of the State message at SUNY Farmingdale on Long Island, announced that New York is committed to building 2,400 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind power by 2030 – enough to power 1.25 million homes. The Governor also pledged his support for New York’s first, and the nation’s largest, offshore wind project off the east end of Long Island.
“We have to start to do some big things, we have to do big things in renewable energy to get that cost to power down on Long Island,” he stated. “And we have wind power, we’ve had wind power for years. Offshore wind farms work. They can be done right, they can be done correctly, they don’t have to be an eyesore.
“I’m calling on LIPA to approve a 90 megawatt wind farm. It’s enough to support 50,000 homes. They will not be visible from the beach. They will be 30 miles southeast of Montauk. Not even Superman standing on Montauk Point could see these wind farms. But the upside is tremendous. It will be the largest offshore wind project in our nation’s history, not just in existence. It’s jobs. It’s clean energy and it’s inexpensive energy which then drives the economy. And we are not going to stop there. We have a mandate of 50 percent renewable power by the year 2030. We want to get 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030 and we are not going to stop until we reach 100 percent renewable because that’s what a sustainable New York is really all about.”
Offshore wind power is especially important in light of Cuomo’s pronouncement in his State of the State address that the Indian Point nuclear plant, which theoretically generates 2000 megawatts of energy, will be shut down by 2021.
The Atlantic waters off Long Island has some of the best conditions for off-shore windpower production in North America, if not the world. Dubbed the “Saudi Arabia of offshore wind” we could be the epicenter for a new American energy industry, already $20 billion globally. Scientists and engineers at SUNY Stony Brook are developing new battery storage systems and monitoring controls. Wind turbines need to be manufactured, installed, monitored and maintained, producing thousands of everlasting jobs along with the wind power.
And unlike fossil fuels, where the prices are unpredictable except they almost always go up (oil and gas, after all, are finite resources, costly to develop, process and deliver), wind power is a predictable, stable price that is on a trajectory to come down, not up.
“It’s been a marathon of work and effort to bring wind power to Long Island, but we are at the last mile and moving closer to the finish line,” Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment said at the Dec. 20 rally. “Long Islanders are ready for offshore wind. We have assessed the science, the economics and the societal benefits and we concluded that wind works as an important mainstream energy source. We can longer be fossil fools and deny the consequences of climate change.”
“With Donald Trump about to occupy the White House, it’s essential that states like New York take the lead in transitioning from dirty fossil fuels to renewable energy,” Eric Weltman, Senior Organizer, Food & Water Watch stated. “Climate change could be catastrophic to New York, but with the fossil fuel industry poised to set federal energy policy, we need Governor Cuomo to lead a clean energy revolution. Having banned fracking, a next crucial step is for New York to move forward with the nation’s largest offshore wind farm.”
Come out to the LIPA board meeting on January 25 to show your support.
If they build it, we will come.
To learn more about Reforming the Energy Vision, including the Governor’s $5 billion investment in clean energy technology and innovation, visit www.ny.gov/REV4NY and follow @Rev4NY.
Philadelphia, PA – Local and national advocacy leaders and affected individuals held a press conference at City Hall in Philadelphia on Sunday July 24, the day before the start of the Democratic National Convention, before being joined by over 10,000 activists concerned Americans at 1 pm for the March for a Clean Energy Revolution. Convened by Americans Against Fracking, the march was intended to demand a nationwide ban on fracking and major investment in renewable energy. The march was endorsed by more than 900 environmental, health, labor, political, faith, justice, indigenous and student organizations from every state.
Advocacy leaders and individuals harmed by fracking called on the nation’s current and future leaders to ban fracking now, keep fossil fuels in the ground, stop dirty energy, transition to 100% renewable energy, and ensure environmental justice for all.
“As the first national organization in America to call for a ban on fracking, Food & Water Watch has seen the movement expand dramatically, becoming a major issue in the battle over the Democratic nomination for the presidency. Today, after listening to the science, more Americans are opposed to fracking than support it. Our elected leaders must listen to the people, which is why over a thousand groups from all 50 states endorsed the March for a Clean Energy Revolution and called for the need to keep fossil fuels in the ground and focus on renewable energy options that will create jobs, not destroy lives,” said Wenonah Hauter, Founder & Executive Director, Food & Water Watch.
The most recent Gallup poll, from March 2016, shows that Americans oppose fracking 51-36%.
“I am honored to welcome the march to our great city and to join the urgent call to free our country from its addiction to fossil fuels. Cities and elected officials cannot sleepwalk their way through a climate crisis that threatens not only our future but also our current way of life. We have a responsibility and opportunity to rebuild cities like Philadelphia through clean, just, and sustainable energy solutions,” said Helen Gym, Philadelphia City Councilmember.
“Climate change is already causing conflicts and crises around the world, from Louisiana to Syria. That’s why the peace and justice community marched today with our allies in the climate and environmental justice movement. We need to make giant leaps towards a clean energy economy and put an end to the viscous cycle of dirty wars, climate refugees, and reliance on dirty energy. The world and its inhabitants can no longer afford to suffer from poverty, illness, and racial discrimination due to wars on our people and the planet,” said Alesha Vega, Assistant Director, Coalition for Peace Action.
“We are marching to demand an end to fracking and other dangerous drilling practices that rely on toxic chemicals and are linked to an array of deadly diseases and disorders. As health professionals, public health experts and people concerned with protecting health, we are gravely concerned about the mounting scientific evidence showing that these chemicals are regularly contaminating the water, the air, and ultimately our bodies. It’s time our leaders commit to a clean energy future which does not jeopardize good health and public safety,” said Karuna Jaggar, Executive Director, Breast Cancer Action.
“For far too long Indigenous Peoples’ voices have been silenced and erased. Most especially when it comes to extreme extraction practices such as fracking. No longer will I stand by and watch that happen. I am here to share my Voice for my Family, for my People, for our youth and most importantly for Mother Earth. Now, more than ever, is the time to use our Voices to heal, protect and thrive!” said Krystal Rain Two Bulls, Oglala Lakota/Northern Cheyenne.
“We’ve just wrapped up a Republican National Convention filled with climate denial and extreme energy talking points. Tomorrow we start the Democratic Convention, and the question to all these leaders and politicians is: Are you willing to take the action that science demands, or are you just another kind of climate denier? Science tells us we need to keep 80% or more of fossil fuels in the ground: that means a ban on fracking, a halt to dirty trade deals like the TPP, and no more use of eminent domain for polluter gain. I’m marching today to tell all elected officials, if you’re not down to #KeepItInTheGround, you’re just another climate denier,” said Drew Hudson, Director of Environmental Action.
“The good news about moving quickly to 100% renewables is not only is it feasible with existing technology, but it will create good-paying jobs, reduce illness and death from air pollution, and result in lower energy bills compared to continued reliance on fossil fuels. We need the US to become a world leader in offshore wind, solar and conservation,” said Mark Dunlea, 350NYC and 100% Renewables Now NY Campaign.
“Science is the grand marshall of the March for a Clean Energy Revolution. As science advisor for Americans Against Fracking and a co-founder if Concerned Health Professionals of New York, I’ve reviewed hundreds of studies that reveal that fossil fuels, including fracked gas, are not safe for human health nor for the climate. It’s time for our elected leaders to lift up their heads, turn off the industry noise machine, and and listen to the data. It’s time for bold action to ban fracking, gas power plants, and new pipelines and move rapidly to 100% renewable energy,” said Sandra Steingraber, noted biologist, author, activist and science advisor to the Americans Against Fracking Coalition.
“The climate crisis is already having a substantial, harmful effect on public health in the spread of vector-borne diseases, accelerating pollution, malnutrition linked to drought induced food loss, rising sea levels, and extreme weather events, as well as the existential threat to our children, our future, and our planet. The time for words has long passed, we must act now. Air pollution from fossil fuel production and consumption kills millions of mostly working class and poor people of color around the world,” said Martha Kuhl, RN, Secretary Treasurer, National Nurses United.
“Unions represent workers around the world who will be instrumental in responding to the growing climate crisis and enabling the shift to a clean energy economy. However, we are also deeply concerned about ensuring a just transition for workers and their communities, and about environmental justice and the unequal and discriminatory impacts of climate change. Unions represent millions of organized workers across the United States and as such have a tremendous potential to confront the unbridled greed that is driving us to environmental disaster. We must be involved in this fight for our members, our families, our neighbors and our country,” said Jon Forster, AFSCME Local 375/DC37.
“We’re joining the March for a Clean Energy Revolution to stop the TPP and other bad trade deals. If the TPP is ratified this fall, it will supersede the Paris Climate Treaty and prevent us from taking the actions we need to transition rapidly to the clean energy economy by giving corporations power over our laws and our courts. The TPP makes profit more important than human health and safety and protection of the planet. We are rising together to call for a new model of trade that respects the planet and all life,” said Margaret Flowers, Stop the TPP
“The inFRACKstructure contingent of our March for a Clean Energy Revolution includes communities harmed and threatened by the growing number of pipelines, compressors, LNG exports facilities, oil trains, and new gas powerplants that are cutting through our communities and environment in order to service the dirty fossil fuel industry and fracked shale. This infrackstructure is inflicting devastating harm on our health and environment, and locking us into a dirty energy future. All of this damage is unnecessary because clean energy options are here today and are better able to support our energy, job, community and environmental goals. We are coming to Philadelphia to demand our political leaders from all parties put an end to dirty fossil fuels and its infrackstructure and commit to clean energy now,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper and leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
“In order to secure a livable future for our generation, we need to a grassroots movement that’s equipped to win strategic local fights,” said Lydia Avila, Executive Director of the Power Shift Network, the organization behind Power Shift- a convergence of hundreds of young climate activists taking place in Philadelphia this weekend. “Young people came out this weekend because we want our decision-makers and future decision-makers to know that we are going to be holding them accountable for implementing strong climate policies that will create the just and healthy planet we all deserve.”
“Over one quarter of children in Philadelphia have asthma, primarily in lower income communities of color. We have the right to breathe, but corporations like the Philadelphia Energy Solutions oil refinery are poisoning us. We need our elected officials like Governor Wolf to stand up to the dirty energy industry and say no to expansion of oil and gas at the Southport site in Philadelphia!” said Teresa Hill, ACTION United.
Pennsylvanians, in particular, called on Governor Tom Wolf, a DNC Host Committee Honorary Chair, to stop harming those who live in Pennsylvania, where the fracking industry has developed more than 9,000 wells in Pennsylvania in just the past decade.
“Sunoco Logistics felled our trees, but the government that let them do it took down Democracy. What happened to my family should be a wake-up call to all Pennsylvanians that they could be next, that the Wolf administration will always put the industry’s interests over theirs,” said Elise Gerhart, Huntingdon County landowner whose family lost the woods on their property to the Sunoco Mariner East pipeline.
At 1 pm, over ten thousand advocates began the one-mile march at City Hall. They carried hand-painted signs and chanted demands down Market St. Final action and chants were held at Independence Hall. The day concluded with an enormous artistic display, transforming a drill rig into a sun.
The March for a Clean Energy Revolution came just after a Johns Hopkins study, published July 18 in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that people with asthma who live near bigger or larger numbers of active unconventional natural gas wells operated by the fracking industry in Pennsylvania are 1.5 to four times likelier to have asthma attacks than those who live farther away.
The study on fracking and asthma comes about a year after a comprehensive study linking premature births and at-risk pregnancies to fracking. Data on over 10,000 pregnancies in Pennsylvania from 2009 to 2013 showed odds of premature births increased 40% when expectant mothers live in heavily fracked communities.The vast majority of studies find risks and harms; a recent peer-reviewed study analyzing all of the relevant peer-reviewed literature found that, “the great majority of science contains findings that indicate concerns for public health, air quality and water quality.”
Pennsylvanians Against Fracking is a statewide coalition of organizations, institutions, and businesses calling for a halt to fracking in the Commonwealth. Learn more about Pennsylvanians Against Fracking at paagainstfracking.org.
Americans Against Fracking is comprised of entities dedicated to banning drilling and fracking for oil and natural gas in order to protect our shared vital resources for future generations.
Food & Water Watch, a lead organizer of the March for a Clean Energy Revolution, was the first national organization to call for a ban on fracking everywhere. Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.
Even as the Clean Energy Revolution March gets underway on Sunday, July 24 just ahead of the Democratic National Convention, the White House released a fact sheet describing the Clean Energy Savings for All Americans Initiative. The March is to win support – from Democrats (since Republicans unabashedly deny Climate Change and hold in their platform the elevation of coal and fossil fuels while impeding clean, renewable energy – to ban fracking and to achieve 100% clean, renewable energy by 2030, without the fiction of natural gas or even worse, nuclear, as a “bridge” or transition fuel. The demands of the march are simple and bold:
Ban fracking now
Keep fossil fuels in the ground
Stop dirty energy
Environmental justice for all
A quick and justly transition to 100 percent renewable energy
Meanwhile, here is the Fact Sheet presented by the White House on “clean Energy Savings for All Americans” Initiative.
(ClickHEREto view a video on Access to Solar Panels featuring President Obama)
President Obama is committed to ensuring that every American family can choose to go solar and to cut their energy bills – and that every American community has the tools they need to tackle local air pollution and global climate change.
Since President Obama took office, solar electricity generation has increased 30 fold and solar jobs are growing 12 times faster than the rest of the economy. Last year, we announced a set of actions to increase access to solar and create a more inclusive workforce, but there is still more work to do. That is why, today, the Obama Administration is announcing a new cross government partnership – the Clean Energy Savings For All Initiative – between 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) to increase access to solar energy and promote energy efficiency across the United States and, in particular in low- and moderate- income communities.
Through the Clean Energy Savings for All Initiative, the Administration 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, is announcing a new catalytic 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. The Clean Energy Savings for All Initiative will help achieve the goal by promoting innovative financing mechanisms, bolstering technical assistance for states and communities, driving innovation, 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, convening stakeholders, and working with the private and philanthropic sectors. The key components of the initiative that the Administration is announcing today are:
HUD and Department of Veterans Affairs (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 Federal Housing Administration (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. PACE is a tool that allows American homeowners, including low- and moderate- income households and veterans, to finance solar and energy efficiency improvements at no upfront cost and to pay back the cost over time through their property tax bill;
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;
EPA, DOE, and HUD are bringing people together to share best practices on how to finance and overcome barriers to creating healthier communities; 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.
The announcements today will result in lower energy bills, more empowered consumers, and cleaner communities.
EXECUTIVE ACTIONS TO SCALE UP SOLAR AND REDUCE ENERGYBILLS
To continue supporting all American communities in deploying renewable energy while creating jobs and reducing carbon pollution, the Administration is announcing the following actions:
Supporting the Scale Up of Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing: Since 2009, the Obama Administration has been working to provide homeowners the opportunity to finance solar and energy efficiency improvements at no upfront cost through a mechanism called PACE, including through the Middle Class Taskforce and by releasing aPolicy Framework for PACE Financing Programs. Today, the Obama Administration is taking a number of new actions to allow American homeowners, including low- and moderate- income households and veterans to use PACE financing. This innovative financing mechanism allows homeowners to benefit from energy improvements immediately and pay back the cost over time through their property taxes. If the property is sold, including through foreclosure, the remaining PACE assessment will stay with the more energy efficient property and the next owner will become responsible for the remaining PACE assessment. The PACE initiatives announced today will unlock alternative sources of capital for low- and moderate- income Americans and veterans to scale up solar, promote energy and water efficiency retrofits, and create more resilient homes, leading to reduced energy bills, more empowered consumers, and cleaner communities.
Ø Issuing Guidance on how to Use FHA Mortgage Insurance with PACE Financing: For more than 80 years, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has provided low- and moderate- income households and underserved communities access to safe and affordable housing through FHA mortgage insurance. Each day, more than 3,000 people close on a home for which the mortgage is insured by FHA. Today, FHA is releasing guidance outlining how properties with PACE assessments can be purchased and refinanced with an FHA-insured mortgage. This action is intended to support renewable energy and energy efficiency investments in single family housing, support retrofits that boost resilience to climate risks, and remove existing barriers to using PACE financing. The key requirements outlined in FHA’s guidance are: the PACE assessment does not take first lien position ahead of the mortgage and the assessment transfers from one property owner to the next, including through a foreclosure sale. The guidance also requires appraisers to analyze and report on the impact of PACE-related improvements to the value of the property.
Ø Unlocking PACE Financing for Veterans: Today, in support of the Administration’s longstanding commitment to create a clean-energy economy and help Americans take advantage of clean energy technologies, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is issuing policy guidance on PACE-financed homes. Today’s guidance will clarify the circumstances under which Veterans are able to take advantage of PACE programs in conjunction with their VA Home Loan Guaranty benefit, providing a new opportunity for veterans to participate in the clean energy economy and save on their energy bills.
Ø Providing Best Practices for New and Existing Residential PACE Programs throughout the Country:DOE is releasing a draft of their updated Best Practices Guidelines for Residential PACE Financing for public comment from stakeholders, including consumer advocates, public policy leaders, and industry. This public comment period is critical to ensuring the highest levels of consumer and lender protections. Across the nation, fifteen states have already adopted residential PACE-enabling legislation. Overall, nearly 100,000 households have utilized PACE programs to finance over $2 billion in energy saving improvements to their homes. The updated guidelines reflect the evolving structure of the PACE market and incorporate lessons learned from various PACE programs that have been successfully implemented since the original guidelines were issued. They provide best practices for residential PACE programs, including protections to both consumers who voluntarily opt into PACE programs, and to lenders who hold mortgages on properties with PACE assessments. The guidelines can also be used by PACE program administrators, contractors and consumers to plan, develop and implement programs and improvements that effectively deliver home energy and related upgrades. DOE’s updated Best Practice Guidelines for Residential PACE Financing rely upon important progress that the Department has made in a critical partnership with industry, including a formal partnership with the Appraisal Foundation to develop guidance on valuation of energy efficiency in residential and commercial buildings that was launched in 2011. DOE is also partnering with the Appraisal Institute to integrate energy efficiency into appraisals and real estate transactions and deliver education and training to appraisers through the Better Buildings Home Energy Information Accelerator, where they have enlisted the support of the Real Estate Standards Organization, the Council of MLS, Homes.com, and National Association of Realtors.
Ø Providing Technical Assistance to Make it Easier for States and Communities to Stand Up Smart PACE Programs:DOE will provide technical assistance to support the design and implementation of effective PACE programs, including conducting a series of webinars and online workshops to facilitate peer exchange and provide access to PACE experts; conducting research on the lessons learned from state and local residential PACE programs , including analysis of the impact of PACE on community adoption rates of energy efficiency improvements and per household energy consumption, and various program design strategies, and effectiveness of PACE relative to other financing mechanisms. DOE is also working with State Energy Offices, local government representatives, residential PACE industry representatives, and subject matter experts to focus on residential PACE program design (including consumer protection options) and the development and dissemination of detailed program best practices.
Developing a Community Solar Challenge: To help meet the Administration’s 1 GW goal, DOE is announcing the development of aCommunity Solar Challenge that will award teams in dozens of communities up to $100,000 to develop innovative models to increase solar deployment and cut communities’ energy bills, in particular in low-income communities. Today, the DOE SunShot Initiative is releasing a request for information to gather feedback and information on the structure of challenge. Shared solar systems of 2 megawatts (MW) or less with 40 percent low- and moderate- income subscribers, solar systems that benefit low-income families, and solar for community assets, e.g., hospitals, schools, food banks, and health clinics will be eligible. This challenge will reduce market barriers to solar deployment by spurring the deployment of dozens of projects across the nation, with an emphasis on new and emerging solar markets.
Making it Easier for Low Income Households to Access Hundreds of Millions of Dollars in Funding for Renewable Energy Investments:The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides, on average more than $3 billion a year to communities across the country and includes a provision that allows LIHEAP grantees to access 15 – 25 percent of their annual funding for low cost weatherization and energy efficiency improvements. Today, we are announcing technical assistance to LIHEAP grantees to increase their ability to use this funding to support the deployment of renewable energy.
Tracking the Deployment of Solar on Low- and Moderate Income Households: DOE, in collaboration with HUD and GTM Research, will work with the national labs to track progress on the deployment of solar energy for low- and moderate- income households, in particular to reach the Administration’s 1 GW goal.
Providing Technical Assistance to Make it Easier for More Americans to Participate in the Clean Energy Economy:Today, the Administration is announcing three actions to ensure all communities have the information they need to participate in the clean energy economy.
Ø Creating a Resource Hub to Promote Energy Access: DOE is creating a cross-agency digital hub on the Solar Powering America website so that communities, businesses, organizations and state and local governments can learn about federal resources to help low- and moderate-income Americans go solar.
Ø Providing Resources to Bring Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to Low-Income Communities: In the coming months, the EPA will provide additional informational resources to help state and local energy, environmental, housing, and social services agencies, non-profits, and utilities understand successful models they can use to bring energy efficiency and renewable energy to low-income communities. Current resources available on the EPA’s website include five case studies and profiles, recordings from three webinars, and a guide to EPA programs.
Ø Providing Technical Assistance to Remote Communities: DOE’s Office of Indian Energy (IE) is announcing $7 million in funding to establish an inter-tribal technical assistance energy providers’ network. This program will provide Alaska Native communities assistance to develop energy experts that provide technical energy assistance and informational resources to their member Alaska Native villages.
Bringing People Together to Share Best Practices on how to Finance and Overcome Barriers to Creating Healthier Communities:Today, the Obama Administration is announcing we will host a series of convenings across the country to expand access to financing for community solar and develop new partnerships to create healthier communities:
Ø Convening Banks and Regulators to Expand Access to Financing for Community Solar Projects for Low- and Moderate- Income Households:DOE is announcing its plans to convene local and regional banks and their regulators for a summit to identify strategies to improve and expand community solar project financing, with an emphasis on serving low- and moderate-income households. The summit will provide the most recent information on the potential market opportunities for community solar, underwriting best practices, and updates on regulatory guidance.
Ø Convening a Series of Clean Energy Savings for All Summits Across the Country: Working with national and regional partners, the White House, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will convene a series of Clean Energy Savings for All Summits in communities across the United States, beginning with a Summit on August 9, 2016 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. These events will provide local and state officials, advocates, community organizations, and interested members of the public an opportunity to develop new partnerships and learn about ways we can further reduce air pollution, deploy clean energy and energy efficiency, and build an inclusive clean energy economy for all Americans.
Ø Hosting a National Funding Resources and Training Summit for Vulnerable Communities: On October 25-26, 2016, the EPA will host The National Funding Resources and Training Summit for Vulnerable Communities in Washington, DC to enhance collaboration around environmental, health and economic concerns and ensure vulnerable populations have access to information, services, and data for increased resilience, engagement, and sustainability. The summit themes will include: just transition workforce development, financial resources and entrepreneurship development, and health and environmental training and outreach.
Building an Inclusive Solar Energy Workforce: Since the President took office, we have trained more than 50,000 workers to enter the solar industry, bringing us closer reaching our goal of training 75,000 workers to enter the solar industry by 2020. To continue enhancing employment opportunities for all Americans, including low-income and minority communities, and make sure workers can take advantage of the jobs that come with a transition to clean energy:
Ø DOE is Launching the Solar Training Network: The Solar Training Networkwill support the development of a well-trained and inclusive workforce by connecting trainers, solar employers, and individuals interested in working in the solar industry. The Solar Foundation will administer the program and will create a centralized clearinghouse for solar workforce tools and resources, including the establishment of a Solar Jobs Strategy Commission to foster an exchange of resources and knowledge between training providers and the solar industry. The Solar Foundation will also conduct research and analysis to enhance the understanding of the solar industry’s workforce and training supply, demand, costs, and needs.
Ø DOE is Announcing a Community and Workforce Investment Program in Baltimore, Maryland:Today, DOE’s Job Strategy Council launched a community and workforce investment program to both create new employment opportunities and train low income residents in West Baltimore for jobs in the solar industry. DOE’s Initiative will explore options to expand access to solar for renters and local individuals in the Baltimore area, investigate the possibility of installing solar panels on public housing units, and in collaboration with the Morgan Community Mile Solar Installation Project, a partnership with Morgan State University, Baltimore’s Sustainability Office, GRID Alternatives, Civic Works and the local communities, weatherize and install solar panels on 33 low income homes in the Morgan Community Mile neighborhood of Baltimore. Today, DOE, the City of Baltimore and the Maryland Clean Energy Center signed a Memorandum of Understanding intended to accelerate the growth of and access to solar and renewable energy jobs and to prepare a roadmap for rapid demonstration and deployment.
STATE AND PRIVATE SECTOR COMMITMENTS TO INCREASE SOLAR ENERGYAND CUT ENERGY BILLS IN COMMUNITIES ACROSS AMERICA
To help us achieve our new goal to bring 1 GW of solar energy to low- and moderate- income families by 2020, today, the Administration is announcing more than 120 new commitments from the private, state, local, and philanthropic sectors in 36 states to support the deployment of solar energy in low-and moderate income communities and promote community solar and energy efficiency. Today’s new commitments represent $287 million in investment, and nearly 280 MW of community solar and low-and moderate income solar deployment. They bring the total amount of commitments secured to more than $800 million in investment and more than 491 MW of solar power. These announcements include:
Growing The Reach And Impact Of The National Community Solar Partnership by 6 Fold:Last July, the Administration launched the National Community Solar Partnership—a collaborative effort between the DOE, HUD, USDA, EPA, representatives from solar companies, NGOs, and state and community leaders —which works to unlock access to solar for the nearly 50 percent of households and businesses that are renters or do not have adequate roof space to install solar systems, in particular, for low- and moderate- income communities. Since we launched the partnership last year, more than 110 companies, organizations, and universities that represent 25 states have joined the effort to increase access to community solar, growing the number of members by six fold to 135, including the following 67 new partners joining today:
All Energy Solar – Minnesota
Altus Power America – Oklahoma
Banner Solar – Idaho
Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition – New York
Bonneville Environmental Foundation – Oregon
Boston Community Capital – Massachusetts
Building Science Innovators, LLC – Louisiana
Cadmus – Colorado
Center for Resource Solutions – California
Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board – New York
Clean Energy Economy Minnesota – Minnesota
Coalition for Community Solar Access – District of Columbia
CohnReznick, LLP – Maryland
Community Energy, Inc. – Pennsylvania
Community Green Energy – Wisconsin
Community Housing Works – California
Community Power Network – District of Columbia
Community Purchasing Alliance – District of Columbia
Co-op Power – Massachusetts
Cooperative Community Energy – California
Cooperative Energy Futures – Minnesota
County of Erie, NY – New York
Encore Renewable Energy – Vermont
Energy Outreach Colorado – Colorado
Enterprise Community Partners – District of Columbia
Environmental Law and Policy Center – Illinois
Ethical Electric – District of Columbia
Eutectics, LLC – Minnesota
Extensible Energy, LLC – California
Great Plains Institute – Minnesota
Green Long Island, Inc. – New York
GreenMark Solar – Minnesota
Hannah Solar – Georgia
kWh Analytics – California
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority – California
Lotus Engineering and Sustainability – Colorado
Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments – District of Columbia
Michigan Energy Options – Michigan
Microgrid Institute – Minnesota
Minnesota Renewable Energy Society – Minnesota
Navigant Consulting – District of Columbia
Nexamp – Massachusetts
Northern Virginia Regional Commission – Virginia
Nuance Energy Group Inc. – California
ProjectEconomics – New York
Renewable Energy Districts – New York
Renewable Energy Partners – Delaware
Renewable Energy Services – Hawaii
Savannah River National Laboratory – South Carolina
Seminole Financial Services – Florida
Solar Holler – West Virginia
Solar Land Solutions LLC – North Carolina
Solarize NoVA – Virginia
Sun Valley Institute for Resilience – Idaho
SunPower Corporation – California
Sunswarm Community Solar – California
Syncarpha Capital – New York
United States Solar Corporation – Connecticut
Upepo Group – Maryland
Utah Clean Energy – Utah
Vermont Community Solar, LLC – Vermont
Vivint Solar – Utah
West Monroe Partners – Illinois
Winn Companies – Massachusetts
Yeloha – Massachusetts
YSG Solar – New York
Zolargo Energy – California
25 Members of the Administration’s National Community Solar Partnership are announcing new commitments to deploy nearly 145 MW of community solar, including projects to scale up solar for low- and moderate- income households. These commitments represent over $187 million in investment.
Arcadia Power commits to deploying 5 megawatts of community solar by the end of 2016. This commitment builds on the 30 kilowatts in community solar projects the company has built.
BARC Electric Cooperative announces that a 550 kilowatt community solar project – the first in the Commonwealth of Virginia –will be completed in early summer 2016.
Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition and its partners announce at least six new community and shared solar projects over the next two years that will serve more than 100 low- and moderate-income customers in southern New York.
Black Rock Solar commits to developing 1 MW of solar for low-income communities in Nevada in 2016. This commitment builds on the 6.5 megawatts of solar the company has already built for non-profits, schools, rural areas, Native American tribes, and low-income housing in Nevada.
Capitol Assets Solar Development commits to deploying 250 kilowatts of low-income solar in Houston, TX by 2020.
Clean Energy Collective commits to develop 50 megawatts of projects in the next two years in New York, representing a $100 million investment in the state, and reaching up to 15,000 residential customers. This builds on CEC’s 160 megawatts of installed community solar in 12 states with 26 utility partners.
Community Green Energy commits to developing 10 megawatts of community solar in the state of New York over the course of the next 18 months, with several projects to serve the New York City region.
Community Housing Works has committed to install 2.8 megawatts of solar energy that offsets both common area and tenant loads of electricity in low-income communities. This endeavor impacts a total of 14 properties and approximately 1500 units. This project provides the tenants with a real economic benefit of about $150,000 per year.
Community Owned Shared Renewables Working Group announces a goal to facilitate community-owned development of at least four new solar projects in New York State.
Co-op Power commits to developing 3 MWs of community solar over the next two years in Massachusetts and New York. In Massachusetts, the organization will expand its offerings in urban and rural off-site solar. In New York City, Co-op Power is announcing a new partnership with Solar One to bring on-site community solar to 400 units of cooperative and low-income housing in 2016. This builds on current successes in developing a 600 kilowatts low-income accessible, community-owned solar system in western Massachusetts.
Extensible Energy and Smart Electric Power Alliance commit to working with at least eight utilities in the western United States to help them with the design of over 4 MW of community solar in the next year.
Green Long Island in partnership with Empower Solar announces their commitment to deploy 5 megawatts of community solar in Long Island, New York over the next three years.
GRID Alternativeswith support from The JPB Foundation, commits to provide no-cost technical assistance to help multifamily affordable housing managers, owners and developers add solar to their buildings, which will support HUD’s Renew 300 initiative under the President’s Climate Action plan, which targets the deployment of 300 MW of renewables for low-and-moderate income housing by 2020. Since 2006, GRID Alternatives has had the support of AmeriCorps VISTA. Due to capacity building support of the AmeriCorps VISTA members, GRID Alternatives went from 37 successful installations for low-income families per year in California in 2006 to over 1250 statewide in 2012.
Groundswell commits to develop five community solar projects in the next 12 months to demonstrate a scalable and replicable model for delivering affordable clean power to low- and moderate- income households. Groundswell will partner with faith based organizations, schools, and other local anchor institutions to complete five megawatts of community solar projects that will serve 1000 low- and moderate- income families in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. Developed in collaboration with Sustainable Capital Advisors, this expansion of our commitment builds on Groundswell’s successful pre-development efforts towards our first equitable community solar project, which will be constructed in Baltimore.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) commits to develop an innovative community solar program for all of its capital projects. This aggressive new program will bring solar energy to communities throughout the LA region, and will represent a significant investment in communities and renewable energy over the near and long term. Metro is the first public transportation agency to pursue a community solar program, which builds on its success of deploying approximately 7 megawatts of renewable energy by the end of fiscal year 2017, with a goal of 66 percent renewable energy use by 2020.
Michigan Energy Options announces a new commitment to deploy 600 kilowatts of community solar in Michigan over the next year.
Nexampannounces 17 new community solar projects, to be completed by the end of 2016. Combined, these 35 megawatts of projects will serve nearly 2,000 Massachusetts households and non-profits, and represent an investment of $87 million in private capital. Nexamp also commits to an additional 15 megawatts of community solar projects for 2017.
RE-volvannounces the newest cohort of Solar Ambassadors. Over the next year, RE-volv will train 40 college students at 7 universities to spearhead solar crowdfunding campaigns in their communities. This cohort of Solar Ambassadors include students at Coastal Carolina University, Swarthmore College, University of Connecticut, University of Dayton, University of New England, University of Wisconsin, Madison, and University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.
Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) announces a commitment to deploy 500 kilowatts of low-income solar in the Upper Midwest region of the United States over the next 18 months and 100MW for solar for communities of all incomes by 2020.
Solar Land Solutions LLC announces its commitment to acquire 15 sites for potential community solar projects in the state of New York. This builds on success in helping clients acquire the rights to develop over 40 MW of community solar projects through the US.
Solarize NoVA announces its commitment to launch four new solarize campaigns in northern Virginia over the next year—in Alexandria, Vienna, Falls Church, and Loudon County. The group has already enabled 569 kilowatts of solar for 77 households, representing $2 million in investment.
The University of Maine announces plans to launch a new, interactive public database of the more than 5,000 community solar projects operating across the country. With support from the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, this web-based database will allow anyone to search and learn from existing community solar projects around the country.
Urban Ingenuityannounces the completion of two unique community-focused solar projects financed with PACE. A critical member of the U.S. Department of Energy-funded CivicPACE program, Urban Ingenuity has closed on nearly 200 kW of solar across a church’s sanctuary, and food bank in Northeast Washington, DC as well as 30 kW of solar on a nearby public charter school. With the November 2015 solar closing on a mixed-finance affordable housing redevelopment, these new projects bring Urban Ingenuity to three unique solar plus PACE financings on non-profit properties.
YSG Solar announces its commitment to deploy 15 megawatts of community solar in the New York City region over the next 10 months.
19 New Affordable Housing Providers and Low Income Solar Developers are Committing to Deploy Solar, Putting Us On Track to Exceed the Administration’sRenew300Goal To Install 300 Megawatts Of Renewable Energy in Federally Subsidized Housing: In the past two years, in response to the Administration’s call to action, 70 affordable housing providers and nonprofits have committed to install solar, including 19 new commitments being announced today to install 124 MW of solar energy. Today’s commitments, when combined with previous commitments, put us on track to install 344 MW of solar by 2020, exceeding our updated 2020 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.
Affirmed Housing Group, California
Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, Massachusetts
Essex Plaza Management Company, New Jersey
Harmony Neighborhood Development, Louisiana
Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles, California
National Community Renaissance of California, California
New Bedford Housing Authority, Massachusetts
The New York City Housing Authority-25 Megawatt Commitment, New York
Saint Paul Housing Authority, Minnesota
Corporation for Better Housing, California
Coachella Valley Housing Corporation, California
Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara, California
Levy Affiliated, California
Many Mansions, California
MidPen Housing, California
Palm Communities, California
People’s Self Help Housing, California
San Diego Youth Services, California
The Chicago Housing Authority, Illinois
New Partners Join DOE’s Clean Energy for Low Income Communities Accelerator. The Clean Energy for Low Income Communities Accelerator aims to lower energy bills in low income communities through expanded installation of energy efficiency and distributed renewables. Low income households spend an average of 15 to 20 percent of their income on energy bills, whereas energy burdens above 6 percent are typically considered unaffordable. This Acceleratorencourages the development of partnerships and replicable models and will work to identify funding options that a state-level agency, local government, or utility program could use to provide energy efficiency and renewable energy access to communities that need them most. Today, 13 new partners are announcing their participation, building on the 24 founding partners:
District of Columbia
Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP), Iowa
Couleecap Community Action Agency, Wisconsin
Community Action Program of Evansville and Vanderburgh County
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)
State of Missouri
State of Washington
Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)
More than 90 member-owned, not-for-profit rural electric cooperativesin 16 states across the country are committing to install community solar projects by the end of 2017. This builds on the nearly 60 co-ops in 25 states that have already brought online community solar projects in the last year. In fact, today, Pedernales Electric Cooperative is announcing a commitment to deploy up to 15 megawatts of community solar throughout its service territory, with construction beginning in late 2016.
Banc of California is announcing a $100 million investment in a new tax equity fund financing residential solar systems primarily to low- and moderate- income consumers and communities in California with a goal of expanding the investment to over $1 billion within 5 years. Historically, low- and moderate- income residents have not been able to obtain financing for solar systems thus this new fund will expand solar to these underserved communities lowering household electricity costs and making housing more affordable.
Google is expanding its solar mapping technology, Project Sunroof, to Washington, D.C. today, making it easier for anyone to understand and access solar power on their rooftop. Sunlight striking the earth’s surface in just one hour delivers enough energy to power the world economy for an entire year, yet only 1 percent of the U.S. energy comes from solar. Project Sunroof, an online solar assessment tool, leverages the 3D rooftop geometry data behind Google Earth to calculate the solar potential and financial benefits of solar power for 43 million American buildings across 42 states. This technology is intended to increase access to solar for all Americans. Sunroof is expanding to Washington, D.C. because Google sees great potential for residential rooftop solar: tens of thousands of D.C. rooftops have the potential to see a positive payback with solar and if only 20 percent of D.C. rooftops were to collectively switch to solar, this could unlock a total of $56 million in electricity savings over 20 years. In addition, Google’s Project Sunroof is starting to work with organizations such as HUD to explore applications of Sunroof technology for low-income and multi-family housing occupants, who could benefit from the cost-saving and efficiency of solar energy for residential use.