By Nadia Ramlagan for WVNS
A report outlines how federal efforts to bring solar energy to one in four American households could bring clean energy to communities of all colors, incomes and backgrounds.
Supporters of the 30 Million Solar Homes Initiative said boosting participation in the Rural Energy Savings Program and Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program could help more residents, farmers, and small businesses finance solar panels.
Robert Fernatt, advisor to Solar United Neighbors and president of the West Virginia Electric Auto Association, said more West Virginians are seeing the benefits of clean energy.
“National-security advocates, faith-based groups, people that are interested in personal energy independence, disaster preparedness,” Fernatt outlined. “We like to say that solar has a large tent: it attracts a lot of different people for different reasons that we can all get behind.”
More than 300 energy equity, climate, business, environmental, faith, and public health organizations have signed a letter calling on Congress to enact the policy recommendations outlined in the report.
Katie Kienbaum, senior researcher for the Energy Democracy Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, said communities have much to gain from reducing use of fossil fuels.
“In the form of savings on your electric bills, or maybe a new job or career opportunity,” Kienbaum explained. “In certain communities with peaker power plants, maybe those can be retired, when more of our energy is coming locally from our rooftops and from our own communities.”
Fernatt added he installed solar four years ago, and saw a dramatic dip in monthly energy costs.
“My energy bill is $5 a month, every month, so it certainly reduces my energy cost,” Fernatt emphasized.
If the 30 Million Solar Homes package is implemented as a whole, the federal government would invest a total of $137 billion over the next five years to help install local rooftop and community solar systems across the country, according to the authors of the report.