April 18, 2014

Strengthening Local Partnerships to Advance Solar Energy in Affordable Housing

President Obama has made addressing climate change one of the top priorities of his agenda.  As part of this work, his Administration has worked tirelessly with local leaders to support cutting-edge renewable energy technologies and, in recent years, we’ve seen great progress.  As the President stated in this year’s State of the Union Address, “every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced.”

At HUD, we work every day to “create strong, sustain­able, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.” To make this happen, we want to ensure that families, in every neighborhood, can access the environmental and economic benefits produced by renewable energy. In fact, President Obama issued a challenge to create 100 megawatts of on-site renewable energy in affordable housing by 2020.  We gladly accepted that challenge, which will triple the amount of on-site and community-scale renewable energy in the feder­ally assisted housing portfolio.

This work will make a tremendous impact.  The residential sector accounts for nearly half of all building energy use and 20 per­cent of all energy-related U.S. carbon emissions.  It’s clear that the actions we take today to help promote clean energy solutions in housing will save money and combat climate change tomorrow and for generations to come. I believe that if we succeed in making renewable energy commonplace in affordable housing, we will generate the capability for on-site renewable energy to become standard practice everywhere.

Thanks to the efforts of organizations like the Denver Housing Authority, GRID Alternatives, the Connecticut Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority, Boston Community Capital, Community Power Network, Bloc Power, Lakota Solar Enterprises, Hannah Solar and Clemson University we are closer to meeting our renewable energy goal. Individuals at each of these organizations were recognized in a special Champions of Change ceremony at the White House for their work to help the advancement of solar power installation and development.

Meeting this goal will depend on creating partnerships, and a model has been created here in Washington D.C. Today, the Obama Administration launched the Capital Solar Challenge, which will engage Federal agencies, Public Housing Authorities, and federally assisted multifamily housing owners on opportunities to deploy solar renewable energy across the National Capital Region.  Under the direction of the Department of Energy,  the General Services Administration and HUD – this challenge directs federal agencies to lead by example in the Washington area by ramping up solar renewable energy deployment across the region including on federally assisted housing.

This program will capitalize on innovative financing and procurement models such as aggregated solar purchases, power purchases agreements, and energy performance contracts, to help lower their cost of electricity.  And, the Capital Solar Challenge will go further to align with efforts already underway in the District to exponentially increase solar on affordable housing and municipal buildings.

America is achieving real progress on renewable energy. For the first time in 15 years, the United States led the world in solar installations last year, and the price of a solar panel has come down by over 60% since 2011. A low-carbon future starts with our neighborhoods and our homes; and HUD and this administration are working to ensure that ev­ery American household has a chance to benefit from energy conservation and independence. We will continue to create solid partnerships with local partners to deploy low-cost solar and other forms renewable energy, produced right here in our communities.

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