WASHINGTON — The White House has announced a new initiative to increase access to solar energy for all Americans, in particular low- and moderate-income communities, while expanding opportunities to join the solar workforce. 

According to the Obama administration, last year the United States brought online as much solar energy every three weeks as it did in all of 2008, and the solar industry added jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy. And since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of a solar electric system has dropped by 50 percent. This solar initiative is designed to bring solar to more Americans, including those who are renters, lack the capital to invest in solar, or do not have adequate information on how to transition to solar energy. The key components of the initiative include:

• Launching a National Community Solar Partnership to provide 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, including issuing a guide to Support States in Developing Community Solar Programs;

• Setting a goal to install 300 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy in federally subsidized housing and providing technical assistance to make it easier to install solar, including clarifying how to use federal funding;

• Housing authorities, rural electric co-ops, power companies, and organizations in more than 20 states across the country are committing to put in place more than 260 solar energy projects, including projects to help low- and moderate-income communities save on their energy bills and further community solar; and

• More than $520 million in independent commitments from philanthropic and impact investors, states, and cities to advance community solar and scale up solar and energy efficiency for low- and moderate-income households.

To advance employment opportunities in the solar industry, the White House announced the following executive actions and private sector commitments, including:

• AmeriCorps funding to deploy solar and create jobs in underserved communities;

• Expanding solar energy education and opportunities for job training; and

• The solar industry is also setting its own, independent goal of becoming the most diverse sector of the U.S.  energy industry, and a number of companies are announcing that they are taking steps to build a more inclusive solar workforce. 

These new actions build on the administration’s goal to train 75,000 workers to enter the solar industry by 2020 and the Solar Ready Vets program that will train transitioning military personnel for careers in the solar industry at 10 military bases. 

Publication date: 7/20/2015

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