SOLAR vs. POLAR: How LIHEAP and the Solar Boom are Saving Money and Lives For Thousands Around the U.S.

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Coming off another record-setting plummet in temperatures this winter, new innovations in the energy industry have been fast-tracked into use in distressed urban and rural communities riding the solar power wave, specifically benefiting from the explosion in new solar field-and-roof installations.

MIT reported that “the dramatic drop in the cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules, which has fallen by 99% over the last four decades, is often touted as a major success story for renewable energy technology… The team looked at the technology-level (‘low-level’) factors that have affected cost by changing the modules and manufacturing process. Solar cell technology has improved greatly; for example, the cells have become much more efficient at converting sunlight to electricity.” (1)


Translating that into everyday dollars and sense, in the last 5 years, according to the Low-Income Solar Policy Guide, “nationwide, federal energy assistance funding under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) has totaled approximately $15B. Both of these programs are vital in assisting low-income families to pay their energy bills, provide weatherization services, and install health and safety improvements for their homes. However, there is a growing interest in directing more federal energy assistance funds toward investments such as solar, which can help low-income families reduce their energy burden and move toward greater self-sufficiency, as described in a recent George Washington Solar Institute report and in a report for Vote Solar.” (2)


Pointing to some ground-breaking interpolations between Federal Energy Assistance Policy and this revolutionary advancement in energy saving technology, the LISPG added in their coverage of this progress that beginning almost a decade ago, “In 2010, the California Department of Community Services & Development (CSD) set aside $14.7 million, a portion of its annual federally-funded LIHEAP allocation, under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to fund an innovative pilot program that allowed 1,482 low-income households to receive fully installed solar systems. The California pilot program ended in 2012.  The DOE recently authorized Colorado, through the Colorado Energy Office (CEO), to be the first state to integrate rooftop solar into its WAP program. CEO created a pilot leveraging eligible WAP funding and matching incentives from Xcel Energy Colorado, aiming to comprehensively address energy burden through weatherization and solar for 300 low-income households by 2019.” (3)




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