Carolinas awarded hundreds of millions to help low-income families adopt solar

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Biden Administration announced $7 billion in grant funds through the Solar for All program on Monday, serving 49 states, six tribes, and several multi-state initiatives. The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality received $156,120,000 it will distribute through a statewide EnergizeNC program. South Carolina’s Office of Resilience received $124,440,000.

The program aims to improve energy efficiency and access to green technology across the country by targeting the communities that see the biggest benefits from bill savings associated with residential solar.

Jen Weiss with the North Carolina Clean Energy Fund said her organization will be partnering with nonprofits and community leaders over the next year to find interested homeowners.

“It’s a large capital expense, and although there’s benefits over the long term, oftentimes lower-income households don’t have that money to be able to pay that cost upfront,” she said. “What the Solar for All program is trying to do is bring down that cost through a grant, through low-interest loans so that it becomes affordable.”

Besides homeowners, both the North Carolina and South Carolina programs hope to open solar benefits to renters as well.

“Renters have been a difficult one because somebody else owns the property,” Weiss said.

EnergizeNC hopes to set up partnerships with affordable housing developers to install solar on the rooftops of their developments and pass the savings onto their tenants.

South Carolina is launching the Community Solar Initiative to allow more renters and homeowners to benefit from offsite solar arrays. Through the program participants can subscribe to an array and help pay for its construction, then every month, they receive credits back on their energy bills for the power that array produces.

This is the third program in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund aimed at lowering energy costs in low-income or historically disadvantaged communities. Vice President Kamala Harris announced the other two programs during her visit to Charlotte earlier this month. The previous programs focus on weatherization and replacing old, inefficient appliances.

Julie Woosley, director of the North Carolina State Energy Office, said properly rolling out all those funds will mean understanding ways they can complement each other and benefit the greatest number of people in the most comprehensive ways.

“Part of our challenge will be figuring out how to take all these various tax credit and grant streams and put them together to create the best possible end point for those residences and multifamily homes,” she said.

In its first year, EnergizeNC said it will primarily work on planning out programs and community outreach. It expects to start distributing funds in 2025.

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Michelle Alfini

Michelle Alfini, wsoctv.com

Michelle is a climate reporter for Channel 9.