By Ariel Miller, ESRAG Newsletter Editor

On Earth Day 2024, states, tribes, territories, municipalities and nonprofits across the United States learned that they had been awarded Solar for All (SFA) grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). One of the grantees is Grid Alternatives, which includes Habitat for Humanity among its implementation partners. 

This brings huge joy to ESRAG’s Habitat Solar team, led by Dr. Liz Henke of North Carolina, who have been working hard to help local clubs find grants to cover the capital costs of rooftop solar in the quest to keep monthly housing costs from rising out of reach for low-income people. As heatwave days increase and electric costs rise, the savings from solar power buffers rising utility bills, a major factor in housing insecurity.

“Under the $7 billion Solar for All program, the 60 selected applicants will create new or expand existing low-income solar programs, which will enable over 900,000 households in low-income and disadvantaged communities to benefit from distributed solar energy,” announced the EPA

“Residential solar electricity leads to reduced monthly utility bills, reduced levels of air pollution in neighborhoods, and ultimately healthier communities, but too often low-income and disadvantaged communities have been left out,” the EPA added in a more detailed press release. This federal funding will help correct the current inequity in deployment of solar for low-income families. 

You can find the full list of grantees on the EPA’s Solar for All website. “Habitat affiliates around the country will have access to multiple streams of Solar for All funding,” says Jeff Heie of GiveSolar, a key partner for ESRAG’s Habitat Solar projects. “Every state has at least one Solar for All recipient. Some states have as many as three unique Solar for All grantees from whom Habitat can access solar funds. GiveSolar is partnering with nine Affiliate Support Organizations [statewide Habitat offices] to start up solar programs to make the most of Solar for All in those states.  

“Every Solar for All program is likely to be different as each grantee will be responsible for designing their own program,” he adds. “If they haven’t already, Habitat affiliates and Affiliate Support Offices should be in contact with the Solar for All grantee in their state to express interest in both helping to develop the SFA program and participating in the partnership to deploy solar on low-income homes.” 

“The unprecedented affordable housing crisis in the U.S. needs to drive all of us to get creative about housing affordability, including by reducing monthly energy costs for low-income homeowners,” said Habitat for Humanity International CEO Jonathan Reckord after the Solar for All grants were announced. “Habitat affiliates nationwide stand ready to work alongside our Solar for All partners to ensure more families have access to a safe, decent, and affordable place to live while reducing the family’s energy burden and the overall home’s environmental impact. We look forward to leveraging these funds so that more families in more communities are not left behind as we build for the future.” 

“Habitat for Humanity has the opportunity to change building practices and lead the way to make solar standard on Habitat homes in the US,” says Liz Henke of ESRAG’s Habitat Solar team. “We commend Habitat for their vision and commitment to building affordable and resilient housing.”

“Today’s announcement will invest billions to ensure that affordable housing across the U.S. can access solar and increase energy efficiency and climate resilience,” said U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Acting Secretary Adrianne Todman. “HUD is honored to have played a key role in today’s monumental announcement, which will provide meaningful household savings to households in low-income and disadvantaged communities, reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs, and deliver electricity during grid outages for low-income households.”

The EPA has been holding public information webinars which are recorded. Recordings and announcements of upcoming webinars are posted at this link.