WASHINGTON, DC, July 8, 2015 (ENS) – A new initiative to increase access to solar energy for all Americans, especially low-income and moderate-income communities, while expanding opportunities to join the solar workforce, was announced Tuesday by the Obama Administration.

In Baltimore, senior administration officials were joined by Congressman Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat who represents Baltimore, and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to announce the new policy.

“We are in a time when paychecks seem to be shrinking while utility bills are going up,” said Cummings. “We want to be the model for the country.”


Solar panels are installed atop an East Baltimore row house, July 7, 2015 (Photo courtesy The White House)

The new policy is the latest by President Barack Obama to limit the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change without the need for new legislation, which would need approval from the Republican-controlled Congress, where climate skeptics and deniers are influential.

To unlock access to solar for the nearly 50 percent of households and businesses that are renters or do not have enough roof space to install solar systems, the White House is launching a National Community Solar Partnership. A guide to support states in developing community solar programs will be issued as part of the new policy.

The administration has set a goal to install 300 megawatts of renewable energy in federally subsidized housing and will provide technical assistance to make it easier to install solar energy.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that it will offer direct technical assistance to affordable housing organizations making a commitment toward the Administration’s new 300 MW goal.

As part of this assistance, HUD is launching a website to provide policy guidance, tools, and other online resources to help advance solar deployment and the installation of other renewable energy in affordable housing.

More than $520 million has been promised in independent commitments from philanthropic and impact investors, states, and cities to advance community solar and scale up solar and energy efficiency for households on the lower end of the income range.

The White House said Tuesday, “The executive actions and private sector commitments that we are announcing today will help continue to scale up solar for all Americans, including those who are renters, lack the startup capital to invest in solar, or do not have adequate information on how to transition to solar energy.”

Congressman Elijah Cummings

Congressman Elijah Cummings announces the new solar policy, Baltimore, Maryland, July 7, 2015. (Photo courtesy Comgressman Cummings)

Housing authorities, rural electric co-ops, power companies, and organizations in more than 20 states are committing to put in place more than 260 solar energy projects, including projects designed to help these communities save on their energy bills and further community solar power.

Solar arrays will be installed atop federally subsidized housing units and officials said they want to encourage projects that allow several homes to draw power from a single set of solar panels.

The White House says that last year, the United States brought online as much solar energy every three weeks as it did in all of 2008, and the solar industry added jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy.

And since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of a solar electric system has dropped by 50 percent.

The Obama Administration announced AmeriCorps funding to deploy solar and create jobs in underserved communities, and will be expanding solar energy education and opportunities for job training.

Baltimore Mayor Rawlings-Blake said, “It’s about sustainability and saving money but it’s also about job training and job creation.”

The solar industry is also setting its own, independent goal of becoming the most diverse sector of the U.S. energy industry, and a number of companies are announcing that they are taking steps to build a more inclusive solar workforce.

These new actions build on President Obama’s goal to train 75,000 workers to enter the solar industry by 2020 and the Solar Ready Vets program that will train transitioning military personnel for careers in the solar industry at 10 military bases.

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