Broad Coalition Calls on Congress to Expand Solar Access for All

April 20th, 2021

Coalition proposes policy roadmap to meet the Biden-Harris Administration’s climate and equity goals and unlock the benefits of local clean energy for all 

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A coalition of advocates representing civil rights, indigenous, environment, equity, rural, and business organizations is calling on Congress to prioritize the equitable and just deployment of renewable energy through policies that support expanding local rooftop and community solar power for all. In a letter to Congressional leaders, the coalition recommends a comprehensive set of federal policy actions, including the deployment and expansion of community and rooftop solar programs, that will build a more equitable, resilient, and clean electricity system and economy that works for all Americans.

According to the letter, “For too long, the benefits of a clean energy economy have eluded communities of color, indigenous communities, low-income, rural, and frontline communities disproportionately impacted by climate and environmental change. Achieving real clean energy equity requires that we address historic policy inequities, prioritize critical investments in the hardest-hit areas, and create opportunities for economic growth that foster justice.”

The coalition attached to the letter a policy roadmap that details a comprehensive set of federal policy actions that would bridge the equity gap in clean energy access and modernize the electric grid. In alignment with the American Jobs Plan and the Biden-Harris Administration’s climate and equity goals, the policy recommendations ensure that at least 40% of the benefits of local solar projects reach underserved communities including communities of color, low-income households, indigenous communities, and those communities disproportionately impacted by climate and environmental degradation. The roadmap includes three pillars of policy recommendations:

  • Empower 30 million households to go solar, including 15 million with low to moderate incomes;

  • Create an energy economy and workforce that includes everyone — especially those in underserved communities — spurring hundreds of billions of dollars in private investment in public infrastructure and creating over one million new jobs, while supporting business ownership, entrepreneurship and economic opportunity for communities of color and underserved communities;

  • Build a more resilient grid that is ready to meet our economic, workforce, and climate goals including achieving 100% clean renewable energy by 2035.

According to the letter, “…hundreds of gigawatts of local solar power will be needed in the coming decade to meet the Biden-Harris Administration’s climate and equity goals of 100% clean electricity by 2035 and ensuring at least 40% of new clean energy benefits go to traditionally underserved communities. However, our aging electric grid cannot currently accommodate the volume of new clean, renewable, local resources required to meet climate goals and relieve energy poverty. We must rebuild our electricity infrastructure to meet both grid and social goals together.”

The full text of the letter – which can be found here – was sent to Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Schumer, Minority Leader McCarthy, and Minority Leader McConnell. The coalition will immediately begin working with members of Congress and the Administration to ensure the various policies within the roadmap are implemented as soon as possible.

There is widespread and growing support for policies that build a more equitable, resilient and clean electricity grid for all Americans including the 30 Million Solar Homes campaign.

Members of the coalition released the following statements:

“Low- and moderate-income families, communities of color, rural, and indigenous communities have long been locked out of the benefits of a clean energy economy,” said Luis Nasvytis Torres, Senior Legislative Representative for Earthjustice. “To change that, our leaders need to be intentional with their policy approaches, centering the needs of underserved communities to ensure they reap the health, economic, and climate benefits of an equitable and just clean energy transition. Expanding community solar, offering refundable tax credits, and incentivizing the solarization of millions of low- and moderate-income households are just some of the recommendations in this roadmap that can help us achieve our goals.”

“Scaling local rooftop and community solar offers a unique opportunity to help address the inequitable way in which climate justice impacts our communities,” says Jeff Cramer, Executive Director of Coalition for Community Solar Access. “The policy roadmap developed by this coalition offers a framework for what Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration can do right now to jump-start the development of a grid that is more equitable, resilient, clean, and lowest cost.  It will also immediately begin to create millions of jobs and spur hundreds of billions of dollars of private investment in public infrastructure improvements, with at least half the benefits reaching underserved communities.”

“Addressing the infrastructure and clean energy needs of frontline Latino communities in the continental U.S. and Puerto Rico is a top priority for Hispanic Federation,” said Laura M. Esquivel, Vice President of Federal Policy and Advocacy at Hispanic Federation.A Roadmap to Expand Solar Access for All offers a starting blueprint to bring about much needed investments and address historic inequities in clean, renewable energy. It is also an opportunity to help Puerto Rico realize its vision for a more resilient and distributed system with the goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050. We will continue to work with Congress and this Administration to center the voices and needs of communities negatively impacted by systemic racism to ensure that these investments redress past inequities, prioritize the needs of Latino families and communities, and result in a just, equitable, and clean energy transformation. Access to community and rooftop solar for low-income consumers is one of the solutions.”

“Latinos have long suffered from inequity in the clean energy economy,” said Mark Magaña, Founding President and CEO of GreenLatinos. “To create real opportunity for our community, we must address historic environmental racism and discrimination, prioritize critical investments in the hardest-hit areas through local solar power, and create green jobs that foster justice and lead towards our environmental liberation. GreenLatinos is proud to join a diverse group of advocates in fighting for a comprehensive set of federal policy actions that bridge the equity gaps in clean energy access and modernize our electric grid. We know that a just and equitable deployment of renewable energy policymaking can strengthen community resilience and will unlock the benefits of a sustainable clean energy economy for all.”

“TUEILIP supports legislation like the Community Solar Choice Act included in the roadmap because it can and will help tribes work towards energy job creation, self-sufficiency and economic development while being respectful of tribes’ sovereign status,” said Pilar M. Thomas of the Tribal Utility and Energy Infrastructure Legislation for Indigenous People (TUEILIP).  “Increased opportunities to leverage tribal solar resources – especially through community solar programs – will not only benefit tribal members, communities, governments, and enterprises, but will also be an important pathway to recovery from the economic and public health harms caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“As we move to a 100% clean energy economy, it is crucial to ensure that people with the highest energy burdens and those that have sacrificed the most in the fossil fuel economy are seeing the benefits of the clean energy economy going forward,” said Chelsea Barnes, Legislative Director for Appalachian Voices. “Our leaders need to make meaningful increases to investments in the Rural Energy for America Program, Department of Energy Programs, Department of Energy clean energy programs, and Community Development Block Grants, and grid modernization will help make sure that communities most at risk in the transitioning energy economy won’t be left behind.”

“Solar provides an unprecedented opportunity for communities to address climate change while creating a pathway to a more fair and just society,” said Odette Mucha, Federal Liaison for Vote Solar.  “The federal government must seize this moment to make our communities more resilient and healthier through local solar, all while reducing monthly bills for struggling families and creating good paying jobs to end energy poverty.”

“Centering equity within distributed solar and workforce development programming can move the United States rapidly towards a sustainable and just economy that maximizes benefits for low-income communities and communities of color,” said Stan Greschner, Chief Policy and Business Development Officer, GRID Alternatives. “The policy and funding recommendations in this roadmap – such as the Affordable Solar Energy for Our Communities Act – will help build community-powered solutions to advance economic and environmental justice through renewable energy.”

“Solar energy provides homes and businesses with pollution-free electricity and improves the quality of life in our communities by creating jobs and boosting resilience. But we’ve barely scratched the surface of our ability to harness the power of the sun on our rooftops and in our neighborhoods. Dramatically expanding access to solar energy via rooftop and community solar is vital to our efforts to build a grid that is more equitable, resilient, and cost-effective. We look forward to working with the Biden Administration, Congress, and state and local leaders to bring their vision to life with policies that expand access to local solar for all Americans,” said Rob Sargent, Campaign Director for Local Solar for All.

“There are three critical challenges facing our country: economic downturn, social injustice, and climate catastrophe,” said Anya Schoolman, Executive Director of Solar United Neighbors. “Powering 30 million new solar homes with distributed solar energy will help us meet them. The plan put forward today is a smart way to achieve this goal.”