White House seeks more solar power in poor areas

White House seeks more solar power in poor areas
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The Obama administration wants to increase the use of solar power in low-income and subsidized housing.

It argues that doing so will lower electricity bills while improving job prospects for people with lower incomes.

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“We need to expand opportunities for more families to reap the benefits of using cleaner sources of energy that can also help households save money on their utility bills,” Brian Deese, President Obama’s top energy adviser, told reporters Monday.

Deese will travel to Baltimore on Tuesday with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) to roll out several steps that agencies will be taking to eliminate hurdles that prevent solar power from being used by low-income households.

The centerpiece of the initiative is a loan program the Energy Department is launching to help build community solar systems — neighborhood solar farms that do not require panels to be installed on individual families’ or businesses’ roofs.

It’s meant to make community solar a viable alternative to rooftop solar, which is not available to about half of households and businesses, often because they rent.

The Energy Department, Deese said, “will provide low-cost financing, particularly to households, and improve our government lending programs to make them easier to utilize so that it’s easier for individuals to take advantage of this benefit.”

Solar power represents less than 1 percent of the country’s electricity generating capacity, but the White House is hoping that their efforts, taken with the explosive growth the industry is already seeing, can help change that.

The White House is also setting a goal of deploying 300 megawatts of solar power capacity nationally by 2020. It’s a big step up from Obama’s goal of 100 megawatts that he set in 2013, because the country already has commitments for 185 megawatts by 2020.

The administration is announcing another program to train additional solar industry workers, with a focus on the poor.

Officials will also announce Tuesday 260 projects from the private sector and state and local governments aimed at expanding solar in low- and moderate-income communities.