Since 2012, the amount of energy generated through solar electricity has increased by 3000 percent in the United States. Much of this growth can be attributed to:
- A decrease in the cost to convert to solar energy
- The desire to reduce air pollution in local communities
- More people becoming aware about the dangers of global climate change
Still, some have been hesitant to switch their homes to solar energy because of the upfront costs. Many states have energy programs to provide rebates and incentives for making the switch. And of course, there is always the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit. This credit allows taxpayers to claim a rebate of 30 percent on their federal taxes through 2019, with no cap, for qualified expenditures when installing a solar-electric system or solar water heater. Where the credit exceeds the taxpayer’s liability for the year, the additional amount will rollover to the next year’s taxes.
However, the problem is that many of these programs will benefit the homeowner after they have had to pay a substantial upfront amount. This is not a problem for some people, but for others who could greatly benefit from reduced energy bills, the costs could be a barrier for taking advantage of solar power.
How Federal Government Energy Programs Are Helping?
In an effort to make solar energy more affordable to all, on July 19, 2016, the Obama Administration announced a partnership called the Clean Energy Savings for All Initiative that has been formed with the following government sectors:
- Department of Energy (DOE)
- Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
- Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
- Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA)
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
This initiative’s goal is to promote energy efficiency and provide options to low-and-moderate-income families to go solar. Included in this new initiative is funding for six energy programs that will benefit families who wish to go solar who might otherwise be unable to afford to do so without financial or employment assistance.
1. Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE)
The VA and HUD are working together to provide funding that will allow low-and-moderate-income homeowners and veterans to finance energy improvements and solar installations with no upfront cost. Recipients of funding from PACE would then be required to pay any out-of-pocket costs over time that will be built into their property tax bill.
2. Community Solar Challenge
Low-income communities can vie for awards in this energy program sponsored by the DOE. Groups or teams from these communities may be awarded up to $100,000 and receive technical assistance for developing innovative plans for solar initiatives to reduce energy bills in their communities.
3. Low Income Housing Energy Program (LIHEAP)
Through efforts by the DOE and HHS, grantees of the LIHEAP funding will receive technical assistance with making energy-efficient improvements to their homes. Recipients of LIHEAP grants receive annual funding to make low-cost energy efficient improvements on their homes, including solar or other types of renewable energy improvements.
4. Solar Training Network
The demand for trained workers in the solar industry is 12 times the growth rate for other industries. With the help of the DOE, solar employers, solar workforce trainers and workers interested in working in the solar industry are connected. With the focus being on low-income communities, this helps provide a workforce needed for solar projects and assist with improving the local economy.
5. Expanding Access for Financing
With banks and banking regulators, the EPA, DOE and HUD are working toward sharing the best practices to open up financial opportunities and reduce barriers for communities to finance community solar projects.
6. Investments and Projects
An additional $287 million has been committed to helping low and moderate-income families and communities deploy solar energy. Over 120 new commitments have been from local, state, private and philanthropic sectors throughout 36 states to assist in these efforts through various energy programs.
In summary, these six energy programs will benefit you and your family if you wish to go solar and can’t afford to do so without financial or employment assistance.