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SunPro Solar Energy specialists install solar panels on roof of house in North Carolina. (Photo: Lindsey Nicholson/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Biden's New Low-Income Solar Power Program Hailed as 'Vital' for People and Planet

"Let's keep those executive actions coming—and use them not only to build renewables, but also to shut down fossil fuels," said Jamie Henn of Fossil Free Media.

Jenna McGuire

The Biden administration on Wednesday announced a new initiative to bring solar power to low-income families across the U.S.

"Deploying community solar is a vital move to protect both our climate and the millions of households most vulnerable to utility shutoffs and dirty energy price spikes."

The new measures will be available to the over 4.5 million families that are served by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs, helping them transition their homes to community solar power—which would reduce prices of monthly power bills by 10% to 50%.

"The combination of extreme heat and rising utility prices creates a perfect storm, and HUD-assisted families and communities are some of the most vulnerable," said HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge. "The steps announced today by the Biden administration will not only help families reduce utility costs, but also provide an opportunity for HUD-assisted residents to participate in the clean energy economy through local community solar programs."

As reported by Politico, "The initiative would connect participants in a federal program that subsidizes energy costs for low-income residents with developers of community solar projects, which sell subscriptions to households for renewable power with the promise of lowering their monthly electricity bills."

In order to reduce consumer risk, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program recipients will be able to log in to an online platform and shop for the project of their choice—selected from a pool of vetted and approved developers by the Biden administration.

This is the latest proposal by President Joe Biden to accomplish his climate goals through executive actions, after hundreds of billions of dollars worth of climate and clean energy spending failed to pass in the Senate.

Environmental organizations and Democratic lawmakers have called on Biden to declare a climate emergency, which would allow him to unlock the broad powers of the National Emergency Act (NEA) and pursue a wide range of climate regulatory and administrative actions—but the president has yet to do so.

"Good to see Biden rolling out the type of programs he should have been doing since Day One!" said Jamie Henn, director of Fossil Free Media on Twitter. "Let's keep those executive actions coming—and use them not only to build renewables, but also to shut down fossil fuels."

Henn also called for a Big Oil windfall profits tax to expand revenue for the program:

The initiative comes as consumers across the U.S. are contending with skyrocketing energy costs and record-shattering heatwaves.

The Biden administration projects the new HUD initiative could stimulate 134 gigawatts of new solar power capacity nationwide. The current U.S. solar capacity today sits at 97.2 gigawatts, according to the Energy Department.

Community solar advocates see the program—part of Biden's wider climate goal to achieve a net-zero electric grid by 2035—as a way to democratize renewable power, as it will enable people who would otherwise not have access or the means to finance solar investments.

"Deploying community solar is a vital move to protect both our climate and the millions of households most vulnerable to utility shutoffs and dirty energy price spikes," said Jean Su, Energy Justice program director at the Center for Biological Diversity in a statement. "As deadly heatwaves shatter records, this move signals that Biden is taking the climate emergency seriously, but he must go further, and fast. By declaring a climate emergency, Biden can unleash his full suite of executive powers, draw down deadly fossil fuels, and show the world he's ready to fight the climate catastrophe head-on."  

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