Over the last several years, the country has experienced a resurgence of interest in protecting the environment, reducing our impact on it, and ‘going green’. From organic produce to electric cars, there are a lot of different ways that we’re moving towards that. In the housing world, solar energy has gotten a lot of attention lately – and with good reason. A new act recently introduced into congress could help make it easier for those with low incomes to go solar as well – the Low Income Solar Act.
Why Go Solar?
There are plenty of excellent reasons that going solar makes sense. These include:
Lower energy bills – The solar installation on homes can cost a moderate amount, but pay for themselves. Solar farms are able to cut energy costs significantly as well.
Reduced environmental impact – By going solar, homeowners are able to reduce the negative impact on the environment. This clean, renewable energy source doesn’t damage the environment in any way at all.
Better quality – Today’s solar units and panels are far superior to those that were on the market just a few years ago. They deliver much better performance and higher, more dependable energy output as a result. In short, they’re a better investment than ever before.
The Question Of Cost
The Low Income Solar Act of 2015 focuses on making solar more affordable to those who need it the most. Senator Bernie Sanders was the original proponent of the act, and as he said in his initial statement on his website – the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the poor spend more than 60% of their income on basic necessities, compared to 45% spent by wealthy families. The intent is clear – making solar more affordable to low income families to help reduce their energy bills.
The cost of solar panels has dropped significantly over the last several years, but they are still an expense that are well beyond the financial means of low income families like the ones mentioned above – those who spend so much on their energy bills each month.
Millions of Americans are still struggling in poverty, and find it hard to overcome their current economic situation. The intent of the bill is to help make it easier for them to live more comfortably with lower bills.
Additionally, in that same statement, Sanders said:
“The scientific community tells us very clearly if we’re going to reverse climate change and the great dangers it poses for the planet we must move aggressively to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to sustainable energy”
While helping those who are in low income families is the key focus, it’s also obvious that the bill hopes to help make it easier for communities to reduce the environmental impact of fossil fuels and move towards a cleaner form of energy. This twofold focus on economics and the environment is a big part of why the bill is gaining national attention already.
Sanders first introduced the legislation on July 7, 2015, and it was quickly initiated on July 13 by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Tony Cardenas (D-CA). The bill, officially titled H.R. 3041, lays out a number of provisions focusing on the above points and is designed in such a way that individuals as well as communities can benefit from what it introduces to the nation.
There are a number of items that stand out, but it primarily focuses on the introduction of grants and loans to help solar energy become more accessible and affordable. According to recent studies, there is already around 21.3 gigawatts of total solar capacity installed in the US. That’s enough to power about 4.3 million homes.
A full breakdown of the bill can be read here, but the highlights of it are below.
· Grants designed to help pay part of the total cost for a solar installation on suitable homes, providing the low income family meets financial requirements and owns their home.
· Incentives that help construct community solar facilities. These installations will act as virtual roof panels, installed elsewhere and then connected to homes that lack the ability to install panels directly onto a roof.
· Loan money intended to be used for organizations that can find methods of providing access to these community solar facilities to local, low-income families.
· A portion of the funds included in the bill are to be set aside specifically for development of solar installations in rural areas including Alaskan native communities, Indian tribal lands, and throughout Appalachia.
· Financial and logistical support for programs that focus on helping install solar options in areas that lack any major solar deployment at the moment. This can help these programs reach even better results.
· Providing funding for workforce training for those looking to enter the solar workforce, creating job opportunities as well as a segment of the workforce capable of installing solar energy arrays.
· Providing additional support to groups and organizations that advance policies in local governments and state governments that have a similar goal – to improve the access to solar options for low income residents in the region.
As you can see, the act is specifically designed to enhance every aspect of solar energy in the country and in particular the ability of low income families and communities to access this revolutionary method of powering their homes and businesses. By focusing on grants, loans, education, and more, the bill should help the environment and reduce the financial burden that many of our nation’s families face daily.
The bill is just now being debated and considered by the government, but it’s one that is well worth paying careful attention to since it will have a huge impact on the lives of millions of people in America. Solar energy is already being embraced throughout the rest of the world, and it only makes sense that the USA should begin to focus on it as well. With the passing of this bill, we’ll be taking the right steps towards doing just that.