The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $15.5 million (£11m) in new funding to support the deployment of solar energy in underserved communities.
It is expected to help families and businesses “that have been left behind” in the clean energy transition to reap the benefits of cheaper, renewable power and access to highly-skilled jobs.
Around $10 million (£7m) of funding will be provided for a SolSmart administrator for the next five years, who will update and manage the programme to encourage more equitable solar deployment and the adoption of emerging technologies such as solar and storage.
The SolSmart programme provides no-cost technical assistance to cities, counties and regional organisations, helping them streamline processes that make it faster and easier to deploy solar energy, attract investment and lower energy costs for households and businesses.
The rest of the $5.5 million (£3.9m) funding will be provided in technical assistance through the Solar Energy Innovation Network (SEIN), a collaborative programme that connects utilities, state and local governments, community-based organisations and system operators to technical experts at DOE’s National Laboratories to develop innovative solutions to real-world challenges associated with solar energy adoption.
Nearly 100GW of solar capacity has so far been installed across the US and as much as 500GW – 600GW is expected to be installed over the next 10 years.
The DOE believes increasing equitable access to solar includes driving down the “soft costs” associated with non-hardware challenges – like design, siting, permitting, installation and financing – as well as developing business models like community solar that are designed to engage low and moderate income households.
Its Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) will leverage existing technical assistance, community solar and workforce development programmes to tackle these challenges as well as seek input from a diversity of stakeholders on solutions that address the needs of underserved communities.
Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm said: “Solar energy is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest paths to President Biden’s goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035—and now, it’s time to double down on our efforts to make those benefits available to communities in every pocket of the country.
“These new initiatives and funding will jumpstart a long-overdue conversation around how DOE can leverage solar energy’s explosive growth to create solutions and jobs that lift up Americans who have been left behind and create a future filled with JEDI [Jobs and Economic Development Impact].”