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The Post Utah awarded $62M grant to help increase access to solar power for traditionally underserved communities

Utah awarded $62M grant to help increase access to solar power for traditionally underserved communities

By Lisa Potter, Research Communications Specialist, University of Utah Communications

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has selected the Utah Office of Energy Development (OED) to receive $62.45 million through EPA Solar For All, a federal program to increase access to the benefits of solar power for traditionally underserved communities. Utah is one of 60 recipients chosen from a competitive review process thanks to a months-long effort of the Utah Solar for All Coalition.

Led by the OED, the Utah Solar for All Coalition brought together experts from the University of Utah, Utah Clean Energy, Utah Department of Environmental Quality/Division of Air Quality, Salt Lake City Department of Sustainability and Salt Lake County to develop the initiative that harnesses Utah’s abundant sunshine to help vulnerable communities gain energy independence and resiliency and access to Utah’s thriving solar workforce.

“The University of Utah has a strong dedication to sustainability and community well-being in the state, so we are thrilled to be part of an initiative to bring this clean energy resource to the people who need it most,” said Marian Rice, associate director of the Energy Futures Research Engine at the U, Utah Solar For All Coalition member and chair of the coalition’s community benefits committee. “We are excited to collaborate with Solar for All Coalition, state and local government, NPOs and community groups on projects that benefit Utah’s people, economy and ecosystem.”

The Office of the Vice President for Research (VPR) Energy Futures Research Engine led the U’s significant contributions to the Utah Solar for All proposal. In addition to Rice, Elizabeth Gerhard of the Large Infrastructure Funding Team (LIFT), consultant Kimberly Johnson, Kimberly Schmit of University Neighborhood Partners and Kody Powell of Intermountain Industrial Assessment Center supported the proposal.

Funded by the Inflation Reduction Act’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, Utah Solar for All adheres to the reduction fund’s three objectives: reducing climate and air pollution, delivering benefits to low-income and disadvantaged communities and mobilizing financing to spur additional deployment of low-cost solar energy.

“We’ll be leveraging these funds to supply grants and low-cost financing for those who would normally find the cost of installing solar power prohibitive,” said Greg Todd, director of OED. “In turn, funded projects will improve grid resiliency, lower emissions across the state and lower monthly utility bills for program participants. Our office sees this as a win for our utilities, our air and, most importantly, our consumers.”

Utah’s initiative will support rooftop solar through inclusive financing alternatives, robust community engagement, workforce development and innovative partnerships with proven capabilities to accelerate renewable energy across the state. The formative stages will prioritize Utahns who are at risk from a lack of electricity and/or unplanned power outages that may affect life-essential medical devices.

“The U is honored to be a part of Utah Solar for All, a project that exemplified the U’s values to promote sustainability and community well-being,” said Erin Rothwell, vice president of research at the U. “As the flagship institution for the state, it is important we support and collaborate on important initiatives that translate into improving economic stability and energy security.”

The EPA estimates that the 60 Solar for All recipients will enable more than 900,000 households in low-income and disadvantaged communities to deploy and benefit from distributed solar energy. This $7 billion investment will generate over $350 million in annual savings on electric bills for overburdened households. The program will reduce 30 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions cumulatively, from over four gigawatts of solar energy capacity unlocked for low-income communities over five years. Solar and distributed energy resources help improve electric grid reliability and climate resilience, which is especially important in disadvantaged communities that have long been underserved.

Note: This story was originally published on @theU.