Obama unveils ‘robust’ solar support framework

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US President Barack Obama announced a number of new support mechanisms in an attempt to continue to stimulate the US solar market.

The measures, intended to build on the nationwide Clean Energy Plan unveiled last month, form what the White House has labelled a “robust set of executive actions and private sector commitments” to accelerate residential uptake of solar systems.

An inter-agency task force comprising the Executive Office of the President, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and others will collaborate with US states and community organisations to “identify opportunities to improve energy efficiency” and “scale up the deployment of renewable energy in low and moderate-income communities”.

An additional US$1 billion is to be made available in loan guarantees, which will allow individual states to access financing for distributed energy projects, while it will also now be made easier for homeowners to access financing for clean energy technologies under the Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing programme.

A new US Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Energy joint programme will be launched to increase borrowing power for solar installations.

Meanwhile the Department of Defence, which late last week announced a 210MW solar project to help power 14 naval installations in the country, has launched a privatised housing solar challenge and engaged with four companies to provide solar power to houses on 40 military bases in the US.

The four companies – engineering giant Balfour Beatty, installer Corvia, and military housing firms Lincoln Military Housing and United Communities – have committed to installing 233MW of solar on US military facilities.

R&D projects will also be supported with a US$24 million fund allocated towards 11 projects in the country aiming to increase panel efficiency including some currently under development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Rochester and Palo Alto Research Center.

Local governments, utilities and businesses will also be encouraged to support increased solar deployment, targeting energy efficiency measures in 300,000 low-income households with an additional US$220 million in funding.

President Obama unveiled the measures at Senator Harry Reid’s National Clean Energy summit in Las Vegas, commenting that the US solar industry now employs twice as many US citizens than its coal industry.

“For decades we’ve been told that it doesn’t make economic sense to switch to renewable energy. Today, that’s no longer true,” he said.

With the Obama Administration soon to enter its final year, the US President has been unveiling a host of renewable energy measures as he looks to leave a lasting climate legacy. On top of the Clean Power Plan, which has set a target of increasing the amount of energy the US derives from renewable to 28% by 2030, the White House also unveiled a $4 billion investment package for clean energy technologies in June. 

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