Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders, Biden, Za'Nyia Kelly,, Markey

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers Earth Day remarks at Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, Virginia, on April 22, 2024

(Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

Green Groups Cheer $7 Billion in 'Solar for All' Grants

"Solar for All is exactly the type of investment the country needs to re-imagine our clean energy future," said one campaigner. "It's great to see President Biden jumpstart this landmark program."

Climate action advocates on Monday celebrated the Biden administration's Earth Day announcement that it is distributing $7 billion in Solar for All grants "to develop long-lasting solar programs that enable low-income and disadvantaged communities to deploy and benefit from distributed residential solar, lowering energy costs for families, creating good-quality jobs in communities that have been left behind, advancing environmental justice, and tackling climate change."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the awards—which are going to 60 applicants, including states, territories, tribal governments, municipalities, and nonprofits—will fund solar projects that positively impact over 900,000 households nationwide while reducing 30 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. The grant competition was made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act, which President Joe Biden signed in August 2022.

"The United States can and must lead the world in transforming our energy systems away from fossil fuels," said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who joined Biden on Monday to announce the solar grants—$62.45 million in funding will go to his state—and the Vermont Climate Corps.

"The Solar for All program—that I successfully championed—will not only combat the existential threat of climate change by making solar energy available to working class families, it will also substantially lower the electric bills of Americans and create thousands of good-paying jobs," noted Sanders. "This is a win for the environment, a win for consumers, and a win for the economy."

The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation and Indigenized Energy will get over $135 million to work on solar projects in tribal communities across five states.

Cody Two Bears, executive director of Indigenized Energy, said that the award "will serve as a catalyst for tribes and energy justice communities like ours who are leading the way in building our own clean energy systems within our lands."

"This is a once-in-a-generation award that will begin to transform how tribes achieve energy sovereignty," Two Bears added. "The shift from extractive energy to regenerative energy systems will be the legacy we leave for our future generations."

Margie Alt, director of Climate Action Campaign (CAC), a coalition of a dozen national groups, highlighted both the emissions cuts and that in low-income communities across the United States, "families will see savings—approximately $400 per household."

"The president also announced the launch of the ClimateCorps.gov—a new website featuring 2,000 new job listings in climate and conservation," she pointed out. After years of pressure from campaigners, Biden in September announced the American Climate Corps, which was inspired by former President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps.

"We're thankful to the Biden administration for making these priorities a reality," said Alt. "While Republicans in Congress make every attempt to roll back climate progress, climate champions in Congress and throughout the administration are standing strong in their commitment to America's clean energy future; a future where all Americans have access to clean energy, good-paying jobs in the clean energy industry, and see direct savings from this clean energy boom."

Paula García, senior energy analyst and energy justice lead at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which is part of the CAC coalition, also applauded the awards, saying that "the Solar for All grant program is a key part of the larger suite of clean energy investments advanced by President Biden and Congress that will help the United States combat climate change."

"Directing investments toward low-income and disadvantaged communities is imperative to ensuring a just transition to clean energy," García stressed. "If we don't prioritize these populations, we risk exacerbating historical injustices and piling additional burdens on those who have been disproportionately affected by environmental harm."

"The announcement of these grants is an important step forward," she continued. "While UCS research has shown clearly that more ambition is needed to meet climate goals, phase out fossil fuels, and advance environmental justice, the Solar for All program will help create much needed momentum toward ensuring the many benefits of a decarbonized economy, including public health protections, reduced consumer energy costs, and increased energy resilience, are reaching everyone."

Jean Su, who directs the Center for Biological Diversity's Energy Justice program, similarly said that "Solar for All is exactly the type of investment the country needs to re-imagine our clean energy future."

"Broad community-based solar is our brightest hope for protecting people and our climate from the scourge of fossil fuels," she added. "These targeted investments mean low-income families get clean energy that is affordable, resilient, and protects our ecosystems. It's great to see President Biden jumpstart this landmark program. I look forward to its expansion, along with steps to curb fossil fuels with a climate emergency declaration."

Her group and the youth-led Sunrise Movement are among the organizations that have long demanded a climate emergency declaration from Biden, who is reportedly reconsidering it in the wake of the hottest year in human history and as he prepares for a November rematch against former Republican President Donald Trump—whose election could mean a surge in planet-heating pollution, according to an analysis published last month.

Emphasizing the difference between the Democratic Party and the GOP, climate reporter David Roberts called the solar grants "amazing stuff that would not happen if Republicans were in charge" and said, "Thanks Biden!"

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