Substantial $7 billion funding from the EPA dedicated to driving the growth of low-income residential and community solar ventures
Aiming to provide access to solar energy for millions of families in low-income and disadvantaged communities, the anticipated launch of the “Solar for All” grant program will soon open its doors for applications from states and other eligible entities.
Under this program, which falls under the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund established by the Inflation Reduction Act, $7 billion in competitive grants will be made available to approximately 60 recipients, including states, tribal governments, municipalities, and nonprofits. The overarching goal is to expand solar investment opportunities in residential and community settings within low-income and disadvantaged communities.
Expected to release a formal “notice of funding opportunity” this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will oversee the allocation of funds to selected grantees. These grantees will work towards deploying residential rooftop and community solar projects, along with associated energy storage, to benefit low-income and disadvantaged communities. The funds can be utilized to enhance existing low-income solar programs or to develop new “Solar for All” initiatives.
The inspiration for this grant program stemmed from a collaborative effort between environmental and social justice organizations, as well as distributed solar companies. The Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA) highlighted the development of a comprehensive “roadmap” aimed at expanding solar access for all.
EPA has actively sought input on the proposed implementation framework for the “Solar for All” program. The agency is conducting community roundtables to communicate the anticipated positive impacts of the program to various stakeholders, including renters, small business owners, local government leaders, schools, and nonprofits seeking energy cost savings and other benefits.
To ensure a wide-reaching impact, EPA intends to make at least one award per state and territory, while also allocating approximately one to three awards for tribal nations. Applicants have the opportunity to request funds for serving one or more geographic areas.
The application process will begin with a notice of intent, followed by the submission of a program strategy and a program administration plan. EPA will assess grant awards based on several factors, including program need and vision, reduction in greenhouse gas intensity of the grid, impact on average low-income energy burden, reach across low-income and disadvantaged communities, program design quality and impact, cost-effectiveness, timeline, leveraging existing federal, state, and local programs, and program innovation.
Aligned with President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, the EPA aims to ensure that at least 40% of the program’s benefits reach marginalized, underserved, and pollution-overburdened disadvantaged communities.
The “Solar for All” grant program represents a significant step towards advancing renewable energy access, addressing environmental disparities, and fostering sustainable development within low-income and disadvantaged communities across the United States.