Here’s what Congress should include in the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package to advance climate solutions and address energy inequities

Congress continues the infrastructure debate, now deliberating over what’s in and what’s out of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.

We think it’ll be one of the most impactful pieces of American legislation to ever directly tackle solving the climate crisis.

What’s more, we’re hopeful that with the inclusion of a few key policies, this infrastructure deal can improve the injustices within our society and energy system, including unfairly high energy burdens for BIPOC households, and the exclusion of low-income families from federal clean energy incentives.

The bipartisan bill that recently passed the Senate includes many laudable clean energy provisions, such as providing funds for states and funds to deploy solar on mine sites, public schools, and non-profits. It also includes $4 billion for two key programs that support low-income homes with energy bill assistance, energy efficiency and now solar upgrades: the Weatherization Assistance Program and Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). 

But more needs to be done to ensure the reconciliation package that’s being discussed in parallel, includes solutions to the climate crisis and meaningfully addresses the inequities we face in our energy system.

Vote Solar is working in partnership with many other organizations to advance our 3 key policy pillars within the reconciliation package:

  1. Clean Energy: The Clean Energy Standard, now called the Clean Energy Payment Program, which would require utilities to go 100% clean by 2035 and 80% clean by 2030. This is critical for tackling climate change, and in fact is a primary source of the climate emissions reductions from Senate Majority Leader Schumer’s plans.
  2. Local Energy: Residential solar grants for both states and nonprofit organizations would advance more equitable and fairer solar energy policies at the state level, and deploy more solar to benefit low-income families. These efforts could put the country on track to bring the benefits of rooftop and community solar to 30 million households.
  3. Equitable Energy: The primary federal solar policy that has supported the exponential growth of the solar industry in this country is the investment tax credit, which allows solar owners to receive 22-30% off the costs of their solar systems. However, to date, this tax credit has left out both non-taxable entities like schools, cities and tribes, and the >25 million low-to-moderate income American households that do not owe significant sums in federal taxes each year. By broadening the solar tax credit to include these two groups, we could finally gain equity in the solar market. This policy change in tandem with including roof repair expenses to be an eligible cost in the credit, as recently proposed by Senator Ossoff and Representatives Sherill and Pascrell, could significantly expand the residential solar market and finally include everyone.

By expanding solar access to all, we can reduce monthly expenses of the families most in need right now, increase communities’ self-reliance and resilience, and lower energy rates for everyone as we all transition to 100% clean energy. 

We look forward to continuing our work with our champions on the Hill and in the Biden-Harris Administration to make our clean energy future one that empowers and supports all communities. Keep an eye out for more information coming soon around recommendations for particular federal programs.

Do more:

Coalition partners for the Roadmap to Expand Solar Access for All: Earthjustice, Coalition for Community Solar Access, GreenLatinos, Solar United Neighbors, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, GRID Alternatives, NAACP, Appalachian Voices, League of United Latin American Citizens, Local Solar for All, Hispanic Federation, Vote Solar, Chispa LCV, and Tribal Utility and Energy Infrastructure Legislation for Indigenous People (TUEILIP).

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