New U.S. Initiative to Connect Low-Income Households to Community Solar

United States federal agencies have launched the Clean Energy Connector pilot, a tool connecting families to solar energy through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

The platform is a partnership between the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

According to a statement by the DOE, Clean Energy Connector is a first-of-its-kind software, which can now be used by local LIHEAP program administrators in Illinois, Washington, D.C., and New Mexico to connect community solar subscriptions to as many as 40,000 households with low income.

“Renewable energy is by far the cheapest form of power and now, thanks to innovative solutions developed under the Biden-Harris Administration, more households across America can access the health and savings benefits that solar power provides”, said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “DOE’s partnership with HHS will increase the deployment of community solar, helping thousands of families lower their energy bills and in turn reduce their energy burden, ensuring Americans across the nation are included as we transition to a clean energy economy”.

“LIHEAP keeps families and individuals safe and healthy by providing heating assistance in the winter and cooling assistance in the summer”, said Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra. “Connecting LIHEAP-eligible households with the benefits and bill-savings of community solar will also have a lasting impact and provide increased economic security for families”.

Following the announcement of the software’s development in 2022, this initiative will facilitate up to 40,000 eligible households under LIHEAP across two pilot states and Washington, D.C. to participate in community solar projects. Enrolled participants who successfully join the program may see significant savings on their electricity bills, aligning with the National Community Solar Partnership’s objective of achieving 20 percent household savings, equivalent to an annual amount of $370 per household.

In numerous states, solar energy is now more cost-effective than traditional utility bill rates, the DOE said. Community solar, which enables multiple customers to benefit from a shared solar energy system, offers an opportunity for individuals who are unable to install rooftop solar panels to reduce their utility expenses and access additional advantages.

“We can’t claim to be serious about a clean energy future until it’s an option for everyone, not just those with the extra resources available to invest in technologies like solar. This program will expand solar to families who will see the most benefit from lower energy bills and place an equitable focus on clean energy distribution, an essential part of a sustainable future that I’m grateful the Biden-Harris Administration is prioritizing”, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said.

Roughly 5.7 million households in the U.S. benefit from LIHEAP aid for heating expenses, the DOE said. LIHEAP offers support to eligible households for heating and cooling expenses, home weatherization, and energy-related home repairs. The shift to solar energy has the potential to help households nationwide reduce their electricity costs, it said. However, numerous American families encounter obstacles in accessing these benefits, such as subscription fees, the DOE said.

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