Obama Administration lays out more plans to boost clean energy installs

Obama clean energy plan

Washington continues to promote the adoption and continued innovation of solar power in the United States. The latest set of actions and commitments from the Obama Administration includes a $1 billion increase in loan guarantees for renewable energy projects and initiatives for driving the development of new low-cost clean energy technologies.

“Distributed Energy Projects are currently driving innovation and transforming U.S. energy markets,” the administration stated. “Technologies such as rooftop solar, energy storage, smart grid technology, and methane capture for oil and gas wells, solve key energy challenges. Catalyzing these technologies and demonstrating the viability of these markets would create economic opportunity, strengthen energy security, transform certain energy markets, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The administration’s goals at this point are:

Achieving an economy-wide target to reduce emissions by 26%-28% below 2005 levels in 2025;
Increase the share of renewables – beyond hydropower – in their respective electricity generation mixes to the level of 20% by 2030;
Installing 300 MW of renewable energy across federally subsidized housing by 2020; and
Doubling energy productivity by 2030.

Here are the latest initiatives for getting there through various regulatory agencies:

Department of Energy loan guarantees

To accelerate the pace of innovation in distributed energy, the Department of Energy is inviting innovative distributed energy projects to apply to more than $10 billion in current loan guarantees and making $1 billion in additional loan guarantee authority available for new projects. For more from the Department on how a Distributed Energy Project transaction could be properly structured.

Department of Housing and Urban Development

Additional opportunities will be available for borrowers with FHA-insured loans to benefit from affordable financing of home energy improvements, saving them money, and improving the environment. Today more than 7.6 million households in the U.S. live in FHA-insured single family housing. To accelerate this transition and drive the deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency in single family housing, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is taking the following actions:

• Unlocking residential Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing. PACE is an innovative mechanism for financing energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements. PACE financing allows homeowners to benefit from energy improvements immediately and pay back the cost over time through their property taxes.

To remove existing barriers and accelerate the use of PACE financing for single-family housing, HUD announced that properties with subordinated PACE loans can be purchased and refinanced with an FHA-insured mortgage.

This action is distinct from the multifamily PACE guidance for the State of California that HUD released earlier this year. The guidance clarified the circumstances under which HUD will approve unsubordinated PACE financing on HUD-assisted and -insured multifamily housing in California in order to facilitate the establishment of a California Multifamily PACE Pilot.

• Increasing homeowners borrowing power for energy efficiency improvements. HUD’s FHA Energy Efficient Home Program and DOE are launching a program to provide potential homeowners with an easy way to measure and improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

Is standardized solar permitting the next industry breakthrough?

Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy

ARPA-E’s Micro-scale Optimized Solar-cell Arrays with Integrated Concentration (MOSAIC) Program is announcing $24 million for 11 projects in seven states across the country to develop innovative solar technologies to double the amount of energy each solar panel can produce from the sun, while reducing costs and the space required to generate solar energy. Read a ton more about that here.

Bureau of Land Management

The Blythe Mesa Solar project in California was approved by the Bureau of Land Management, which will install a transmission line that will support bringing online the 485-megawatt PV facility in Riverside County and produce enough renewable energy to power more than 145,000 homes in California.

The new Interagency Task Force

Sometimes all of the available departments don’t quite capture everything you want to do, so President Obama created an Interagency Task Force to Promote a Clean Energy Future for All Americans, that will work in partnership with states and community organizations to identify opportunities to improve energy efficiency and scale up the deployment renewable energy in low- and moderate- income communities.

The Task Force will support low-income communities through the development and implementation of the Clean Power Plan’s Clean Energy Incentive Program. The CEIP is a voluntary “matching fund” program that states can use to incentivize early investment in eligible wind and solar projects, as well as demand-side energy efficiency projects, including those that are implemented in low-income communities. In particular, the Task Force will help to identify Administration-wide funding and technical assistance for states, cities, and organizations, easing access to the Federal tools and programs available to increase energy efficiency and deploy renewable energy in low- and moderate- income communities.

Building on the programs already available the Task Force will review the Administration’s programs and policies relating to the availability of clean energy and renewable energy programs nationwide, including within low- and moderate-income communities, with the goal of enhancing funding available in both our existing programs and through the FY2017 budget process.

— Solar Builder magazine

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