Backyard Talk

President Obama’s Solar Plan for Low-Income Households

By: Rachel Oest

Last week, President Obama announced his plan to increase the affordability of solar power in communities across the United States. This is in recognition that our country has serious challenges when it comes to environmental justice. Low-income households are faced with a variety of barriers in their attempts for solar energy. They’re less likely to own their own roof, less able to access loans or other financing options for solar, and more likely to have subsidized utility bills that don’t transfer the financial benefits of solar to the homeowner. But as White House climate advisor Brian Deese told reporters, this initiative “…is aimed at taking directly on those challenges and making it easier and straightforward to deploy low-cost solar energy in every community in the country.”

America’s low-income households stand to benefit the most from producing their own solar energy. As of now, the proportion of poor income spent on energy is four times greater than the national average. Yet these households tend to use less electricity overall and would allow a typical solar setup to cover more of their needs. A report from George Washington University Solar Institute showed that of the roughly 645,000 homes and businesses with rooftop solar panels in the US, less than 5 percent are households with earnings less than $40,000. The same GW study noted that a 4 kilowatt solar system, about the average size for a home, would cover more than half a typical low-income households energy needs. If all low-income households went solar, they would collectively save up to $23.3 billion each year.

President Obama’s plan comes with many steps, including a new solar target for federally subsidized housing and an effort to increase the availability of federally insured loans for solar systems. The Department of Housing and Urban Development will provide technical guidance for state and local housing authorities on how to successfully go solar. With the initiative, came the announcement of more than $520 million in commitments from private companies, investors, NGOs, and varying levels of government to pay for energy efficiency and solar projects for low-income households.

This solar plan is a step in the right direction towards President Obama’s objective to reduce the nation’s energy-related carbon emissions. His plan is working to improve our countries quality of life as a whole, but also targets those that would not have this opportunity any other way. Most low-income households would not be able to consider solar energy without such subsidizes and loans. President Obama has suggested a plan that helps the climate concerned citizens as well as the low-income families looking for a cheaper solution to their energy bills. This is an opportunity that benefits everyone.