Federal, state, private agencies partner to increase solar access nationwide

The Obama administration unveiled a new cross-government partnership this week to increase access to solar power, promote energy efficiency and build a more inclusive workforce. In collaboration with state agencies, the Clean Energy Savings for All Americans Initiative aims to bring 1 gigawatt (GW) of solar to low- and moderate-income families by 2020.

DOE wants your ideas about how to structure and evaluate its Community Solar Challenge. Public comment is due Aug. 2.

DOE wants your ideas about how to structure and evaluate its Community Solar Challenge. Public comment is due Aug. 2. (Artwork by DOE SunShot Initiative )

The new program builds on the successes of the Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Initiative, introduced in 2011. SunShot works with private companies, universities, non-profit organizations, state and local governments and national laboratories to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with conventional energy sources by 2020.

DOE is joining with the departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Veteran’s Affairs and the Environmental Protection Agency to make choosing solar an easier and more affordable option. The key components of the initiative will unlock financing mechanisms, bolster technical assistance for states and communities, drive innovation and scale up workforce training. These measures will enable more low- and moderate-income Americans to take advantage of the jobs that come with a transition to clean energy.

Accompanying executive actions
In addition to the launching Clean Energy Savings for All Americans, the administration is implementing several executive actions to support American communities in deploying renewable energy.

Programs to scale up Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, financing will allow homeowners to make energy improvements immediately and pay back the cost over time through their property taxes. Increased technical assistance will make it easier for low-income households to access hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for renewable energy investments. DOE and HUD will work with national laboratories to track the progress of deployment of solar energy systems on targeted households. 

DOE is developing a Community Solar Challenge that will award teams in dozens of communities up to $100,000 to develop innovative models to increase solar deployment and cut energy bills, in particular in low-income communities. Teams will build local capacity around the legal, technical, financial and administrative aspects of community solar programs and projects. The DOE SunShot Initiative has released a request for information to gather feedback and information on the structure of challenge. The deadline is Aug. 2.

The initiative also includes the sharing of best practices on how to finance and how to overcome barriers to creating healthier communities. Over the next months, summits on clean energy savings, community solar project financing and funding resources and training for vulnerable communities will convene across the country. You can keep up with these events and funding opportunities by subscribing to SunShot email updates newsletter.

Developing solar workforce
Solar jobs are growing 12 times faster than the rest of the economy, and the Obama administration hopes to train an additional 25,000 workers by 2020. To reach that goal, DOE has teamed up with the Solar Foundation to create the Solar Training Network. The network is designed to connect training providers, employers and job seekers to supply the skilled solar workforce the industry needs to continue to grow.

DOE is also implementing a community and workforce investment program to both create new employment opportunities and train low-income West Baltimore residents for jobs in the solar industry. The initiative will explore options to expand access to solar for renters and local individuals in the Baltimore area.

States, private sector get on board
More than 120 private, state, local and philanthropic sectors in 36 states are pledging to support Clean Energy Savings for All Americans. These new commitments represent $287 million in investment, and nearly 280 megawatts (MW) of community solar and low- and moderate-income solar deployment. Combined with previous commitments, this brings the total amount of commitments secured to more than $800 million in investment and more than 491 MW of solar power.

Rural electric cooperatives are among the partners committing to install community solar projects by the end of 2017. WAPA customer Sacramento Municipal Utility District You are leaving WAPA.gov. is among the more than 90 member-owned, not-for-profit power providers in 25 states that have brought online community solar projects in the last year.

Utilities hoping to bring the benefits of renewable energy into their communities can join the National Community Solar Partnership. You can learn more about starting a utility community solar program from Community Solar FAQ and find information to encourage solar homes in your territory with Solar Energy Resources for Homebuilders.

Source: DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy via Green Power News, 7/19/16

Free webinar looks at building code for manufactured housing

Sept. 10
12 p.m. Pacific Time

Many parts of the West are grappling with a housing shortage—particularly a shortage of affordable homes—so utilities can expect to see more manufactured houses in their service territory. Power providers can wait and see how these buildings affect their load or they can take action to encourage buyers to choose safer, more efficient homes. Learn about efforts to increase energy efficiency in manufactured housing Sept. 10 when the Emerging Technologies Showcase webinar series presents Manufactured Homes – New Efficiency for the Lowest Cost Housing Option.

Manufactured homes—those built in a factory and moved to a site—conform to federal code set by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) construction and safety standards rather than local building codes. Energy Star provides manufacturers with a higher voluntary standard they can meet to receive an Energy Star certification.

In anticipation of HUD updating its code to match the current voluntary efficiency standards, a partnership of utility and building industry professionals completed a study to develop the next generation of voluntary standards. Bonneville Power Administration, the Building America Partnership for Improved Residential Construction and Northwest Energy Works teamed up to collect and evaluate energy use data on eight high-performance manufactured homes.

This webinar will present the study’s findings and look at ways utilities could incorporate the higher standards into incentive programs for customers buying manufactured homes. Participants will also learn about different state and federal regulations governing manufactured housing. A question-and-answer session will follow the presentation.

Participation is free but registration is required. All webinars are recorded and available from Energy Efficiency Emerging Technologies and Conduit, an energy-efficiency forum for the Northwest.

Bonneville Power Administration sponsors the Emerging Technologies Showcase series with support from Western Area Power Administration.

Source: Energy Efficiency Emerging Technologies, 8/17/15

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