Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

New Energy Department Partnership Creates Solar Bridges to Energy Security

July 7, 2015

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Solar energy is becoming more accessible to Americans as the SunShot Initiative’s goals come closer to fruition. However, solar is not yet affordable for every segment of the population. For those who live in low-income communities, solar energy is still viewed as a luxury. New programs are working to change that misconception and expand opportunities for Americans to use solar energy to power their homes while expanding job opportunities for all.

The White House today announced an important set of executive actions to cut energy bills for low-income communities across the country.  SunShot is helping to lead the charge by founding the National Community Solar Partnership, which emphasizes serving low- and moderate-income households in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and key representatives from solar companies, nonprofit organizations, state and community leaders, and financial institutions. Community and shared solar has potential to bring solar energy to the nearly 50 percent of America’s households and businesses that rent or don’t have adequate roof space for solar arrays. The partnership’s mission is to leverage the momentum in both the public and private sectors to expand access to community and shared solar for low- and moderate-income communities and others while utilizing the technical expertise of the Energy Department and its national laboratories.

Community and shared solar could eliminate many of the barriers to going solar that currently exist for low- and moderate-income customers. Currently, these households incur electricity costs that make up a larger fraction of their monthly budgets compared with more affluent households. On average, they have lower rates of homeownership, less suitable roof space, and lower credit ratings—reducing their ability to install  rooftop solar energy systems. By providing these households with access to onsite or offsite arrays, they will reap the benefits without owning a solar installation themselves.

Today’s announcement also includes commitments from the solar industry to support low-income communities with opportunities for new solar jobs. The nonprofit organization GRID Alternatives is expanding its SolarCorps Fellowship program, which provides hands-on solar job training to disadvantaged individuals. Through a year-long fellowship, these trainees learn about the solar industry while installing panels in low-income communities and launching their new careers. GRID Alternatives also partners with SunEdison on the RISE Initiative, or “Realizing an Inclusive Solar Economy,” which aims to train 4,000 applicants from underserved communities to work in the solar industry. Meanwhile, SunShot’s job training programs, including the Solar Instructor Training Network and GEARED (Grid Engineering for Accelerated Renewable Energy Deployment) have opportunities available at minority-serving institutions and community colleges throughout the nation, ensuring that underserved communities have pathways to enter the growing solar energy workforce.

Learn more about the collaborative efforts of government, private industry, and nonprofit organizations to expand solar energy accessibility for all Americans.