Biden Unlocks $7 Billion Solar Investment On Earth Day

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On Earth Day 2024, today, President Joe Biden announced $7 billion in grants through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Solar for All grant competition, a key component of the Inflation Reduction Act’s $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. Selectees under the Solar for All program will serve every state and territory in the nation and deliver residential solar power to over 900,000 households in low income and disadvantaged communities, saving overburdened households more than $350 million in electricity costs annually — approximately $400 per household — and avoiding more than 30 million metric tons of carbon pollution over the next 25 years.

The selectees will provide funds to states, territories, Tribes, municipalities, and nonprofits across the country to develop long lasting solar programs that enable low income and disadvantaged communities to deploy and benefit from distributed residential solar. In total, solar projects funded by this program will create nearly 200,000 jobs. The program also advances the President’s Justice40 Initiative, which set a goal that 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal climate, clean energy, affordable and sustainable housing, and other investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized by under-investment and overburdened by pollution.

Janet McCabe, deputy administrator of the EPA, told the press on Earth Day, “One of the most innovative provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act was the creation of the greenhouse gas reduction fund, which was designed to mobilize private capital to address the climate crisis, ensure our country’s economic competitiveness, and deliver lower energy costs and economic revitalization to communities that have historically been left behind.

“EPA has chosen 60 applicants to receive $7 billion in grant awards. It will invest in overburdened communities that the private market finds particularly challenging to serve [and] focus on low-income communities, communities around historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and tribal colleges and universities. This historic investment will generate more than $8 billion in savings on electric bills for the overburdened households over the entire life of the program.”

John Podesta, senior advisor to President Biden, said, “Solar is the cheapest form of electricity and one of the best ways to lower energy costs for American families. Today’s announcement of EPA’s Solar for All awards will mean that low income communities, and not just well-off communities, will feel the cost saving benefits of solar thanks to this investment.”

Climate activist groups welcomed Biden’s solar energy announcement. “Solar For All is exactly the type of investment the country needs to re-imagine our clean energy future,” Jean Su, energy justice program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “Broad community based solar is our brightest hope for protecting people and our climate from the scourge of fossil fuels. 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 jump start this landmark program.”

Biden Announces The American Climate Corps

Taking a page out of the FDR playbook, the Biden administration also announced on Earth Day the formation of the American Climate Corps, a volunteer government organization modeled on the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s. It aims to start by filling about 2,000 positions across 36 states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico, hosted by organizations working on clean energy, conservation, and climate resilience projects. Ultimately, the corps will employ more than 20,000 people, the White House said.

Aimed mainly at young people, the administration said the objective of the American Climate Corps was “to make it easy for any American to find work tackling the climate crisis while gaining the skills necessary for the clean energy and climate resilience workforce of the future.”

Three states  — Vermont, New Mexico, and Illinois — are launching new climate corps programs of their own, joining 10 other states that have already launched successful climate corps programs. These programs demonstrate the power of skills-based training as a tool to expand pathways into good paying jobs. These states will work with the American Climate Corps as implementing partners to ensure young people across the country are serving their communities while participating in paid opportunities and working on projects to tackle climate change.

Biden Administration Plans A Week Of Climate Action

According to the White House, President Biden will announce other climate actions every day this week. On Tuesday the theme will be clean water for all communities. Wednesday will focus on accelerating the future of clean transportation future. Thursday will focus on steps to cut pollution from the power sector and strengthen the US electricity grid. Friday will focus on measures to promote cleaner air and healthier schools.

“When President Biden took office, he promised to create an economy and build a future that benefits all Americans,” Janet McCabe said. “He and the vice president have been relentless in their pursuit of historic legislation to help clean up our air and water, strengthen our economy, create good paying American jobs, and deliver life changing investments to communities across the country.”

Bernie Sanders Applauds Solar For All

Bernie Sanders, the progressive Senator from Vermont, is the godfather of the Solar For All initiative. It was his strong showing in the primaries four years ago that pushed Joe Biden to make elements of the Green New Deal part of his agenda following his election. The Inflation Reduction Act is a monument to Sanders.

“The United States can and must lead the world in transforming our energy systems away from fossil fuels. 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. This is a win for the environment, a win for consumers, and a win for the economy,” Sanders said on Earth Day.

Indigenous Communities Will Benefit

Indigenous communities will be the beneficiaries of some of the Solar For All money. 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, according to Common Dreams. 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. The shift from extractive energy to regenerative energy systems will be the legacy we leave for our future generations.”

What a wonderful legacy that will be. Instead of the polluted Earth and aquifers created by fracking or mining coal, not only will these communities get the benefit of affordable electricity (many tribal homes have no electricity even today), but their young people will be able to learn the skills they need to find employment in the clean energy sector. Sustainable clean energy is a gift that keeps on giving. No wonder extremists seduced by fossil fuel money are so angry! Who will pay them to agitate for more pollution, more toxic water resources, and dirtier air when the world finally decides it doesn’t need fossil fuels any more?

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. Thanks, Biden!”

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