On March 15, 2016, GWSI Director Ronen moderated a high-profile panel discussing the release of the new Low-Income Solar Policy Guide. Developed jointly by GRID Alternatives, Vote Solar, and the Center for Social Inclusion, the guide is a compendium of proven policies and program models that can help bring the benefits of solar energy to lower-income Americans and create local jobs in their communities.
Nearly 100 people gathered at the Rayburn house office building for an engaging discussion with Dan Utech, deputy assistant to the President for energy and climate change, Representatives Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Barbara Lee (D-CA), as well as Tommy Wells, director of the DC Department of Energy & Environment.
“Solar energy is growing at a phenomenal rate in the US, but unfortunately rooftop solar is happening primarily in more affluent neighborhoods,” said Director Ronen in his opening remarks. “In fact, less than five percent of the nearly 50 million households that earn less than $40,000 per year have gone solar.”
“The question before us is how do we get the benefits of solar energy to lower-income households and wealth and jobs that are generated into lower-income communities,” continued Ronen. “How can we empower a population that is more likely to be renters, live in multifamily units, and have less upfront capital to be able to own their own solar systems?”
Drawing from the Solar Institute’s own multi-year focus on low-income solar issues, Director Ronen then posed a series of questions to the assembled decision makers on their plans to push for low-income solar polices, as well as their views between the links between increased solar investment and local job creation, community empowerment, and meeting national environmental goals. The panelists also fielded a number of questions from the audience.
The Solar Institute continues to believe that figuring out how to bring rooftop solar to a more diverse array of communities is essential to its continued growth and widespread adoption. The Institute is undertaking a number of research projects in this area that they will be published in the coming months.