On the 7th of this month the White House announced a new initiative to increase solar access for all Americans.

 The President finally tries to put into practice his good intentions of clean and accessible energy, outlining a series of measures that are designed to put more solar panels on low-income housing and expand access to solar power for renters. Indeed, according to a report produced by the George Washington University Solar Institute earlier this year, the rapid decline of solar panel costs in recent years (-80% with respect to 2008 levels) did trigger solar energy adoption in the US but not in a uniform way. In fact US households with lower income (those who earn less than $40,000 per year), represent 40% of all US households but account for less than 5% of solar energy.

The benefits of solar energy for low-income neighbourhoods would be even greater than average: ceteris paribus, electricity costs make up a much larger share of a low-income households’ budget compared to more affluent families. However, they face many barriers to going solar: for example

o   Limited access to financing;

o   They do not own their roof;

o   Their buildings require other upgrades before solar investments make sense

Now, in the last year of his legislature, Obama commits himself to fill in this solar income gap. To change the status quo the guidelines promote actions both from the administrative side (central federal government as well as states and cities) and from the private sector.

These actions include:

·        The U.S.  Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will help overcoming the obstacle of lack of knowledge providing technical assistance to make it easier to install solar on affordable housing. It is in line with the Administration’s goal to install 300 Megawatts of renewable energy in federally subsidized housing.

·        The Federal House Associate will make it easier for homeowners to borrow up to $25,000 for solar and energy-efficient improvements by cutting red tape and making improvements more affordable.

·        Launching a National Community Solar Partnership among some US departments, state, communities, NGOs, and solar companies to promote concrete actions for low- and medium- income neighborhoods.

In this way the White House aims at “addressing climate change, promoting clean energy, and creating good paying jobs”. Will it succeed?


Eliana Canavesio