September 04, 2020

Cárdenas, Lee Introduce Affordable Solar Energy for Our Communities Act

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representatives Tony Cárdenas (CA-29) and Barbara Lee (CA-13) introduced the Affordable Solar Energy for Our Communities Act. This bill establishes a $200 million grant program to finance the planning and construction of solar installations thereby reducing costs for low-income families.  


“As our country continues to invest in clean energy technology, we need to ensure these opportunities are available to those who may benefit from them most,” said Rep. Cárdenas. “It is our responsibility, as we build for the future, to provide a safe environment for everyone today, and for our children and grandchildren tomorrow. Our bill would make it easier for low-income Americans to use solar energy and lower their utility bills, which will help our nation reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, combat climate change and decrease air pollution.” 


“We need to take action now to confront the climate crisis and create good jobs, especially for Black and Brown people and low-income communities who have been excluded from access to affordable solar and sustainable energy,” said Congresswoman Lee. “The solar industry is one of the fastest growing industries in our nation with a strong presence in the 13th District and is an essential part of the 21st century workforce. The Affordable Solar Energy for Our Communities Act is an important step in helping underserved communities lower the cost of energy and protect the environment by installing solar panels.” 


The Affordable Solar Energy for Our Communities Act establishes a $200,000,000 grant program at the Department of Energy – which may be awarded in the form of grants, rebates, or low-interest loans – through Fiscal Year 2025. Eligible entities of the grant program include but not limited to low-income homeowners and non-profits that serve low-income households or multi-family affordable housing complexes. The bill also promotes solar workforce training and development. 


Solar energy is becoming an increasingly economical energy source for American households. However, many low-income families who would benefit the most from a reduction in their electricity bills are not taking advantage of this affordable, sustainable energy source because of a combined lack of access to financing options and living under a roof that cannot support a solar panel. One report by George Washington University released in 2017 estimated that households making less than $40,000 account for just 5 percent of all solar installations. 


Last year, Congressman Cárdenas introduced the National Evaluation of Techniques for Making Energy Technologies More Effective and Resilient (NET METER) Act to create a national study on net metering to guide states interested in developing effective net metering programs. Net metering allows consumers and businesses who generate some or all of their own electricity, particularly through wind and solar energy technology, to be compensated for the excess energy that they provide to the electric grid and other customers.  


Last fall, Cárdenas introduced the bipartisan Realizing the Economic Opportunities and Values of Expanding Recycling (RECOVER) Act, which would allocate $500 million in matching federal grants to eligible states, local municipalities, and tribal governments to invest in improving their recycling infrastructure, programs, and education efforts. their recycling infrastructure, programs, and education efforts. 


Congressman Cárdenas is a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Throughout his career as a public servant, Cárdenas has fought to make clean energy accessible for everyone. During his tenure in the California State Assembly, Congressman Cárdenas successfully led an effort to push the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to establish a Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires an increase in production of energy from renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, biomass and geothermal. He led similar efforts with LADWP as a member of the Los Angeles City Council, including the successful implementation of a feed-in tariff designed to accelerate investment in renewable energy technologies.