Monthly Archives: September 2013

Developing a Low Income Solar Homes Program in Nebraska

We are working hard to develop a model Low-Income Solar Homes Program in our state, partnering with other nonprofits that build or rehabilitate low-income housing.  This program will benefit Nebraska in a number of ways.

1.  It will help to mitigate poverty in our local communities over the long term.

Low-income families spend more of their income on energy than everyone else, 25 to 30% more, on average. Providing them the means to generate their own energy is a powerful tool for community economic development and poverty mitigation, and it benefits the environment.

It will save low-income homeowners money every month over the lifespan of the solar panels, which generally last 25 to 30 years. This is money they can spend on education, housing, and other valuable assets.

An inspiring model program, Grid Alternatives, has provided solar energy systems to more than 3400 low-income households in California, saving them over $92 million in lifetime electricity costs. To read more about the organization, visit: www.gridalternatives.org

2. Our program will create local jobs.

In other states, growing numbers of good paying solar installation jobs are benefiting numerous local economies. In Nebraska, solar instructors at Creighton University, Metro Community College and other institutions provide excellent classroom instruction, but when students complete their training, too many of them must leave Nebraska for job opportunities in other states. Our Low Income Solar Homes Program will provide local jobs, and Omaha and other Nebraska communities will benefit as more and more of our solar energy dollars stay in our state.

3. Our program will “grow” the value of contributions over the long term.

Traditional, short-term energy assistance programs are extremely valuable to low-income households in our communities during times of personal financial stress and family emergencies.

Our Low Income Solar Homes Program is a unique energy assistance program in the way our contributors’ and sponsors’ donations will increase in value over the lifetime of the solar energy panels. As mentioned earlier, the panels typically last 25 to 30 years, although one solar contractor in Omaha has said that some systems installed in the 1980’s are still working.

Over that time span, the total value of energy generated from the solar panels increases to a sum much larger than the original cost of the solar system. This directly benefits low-income families in energy cost savings over many years. It’s also good news for foundations and individual philanthropists, knowing that the funds they’ve contributed don’t remain static but grow in value over the years.

Again, this is money low-income families can use to send their kids to college, put food on the table, pay medical bills, or meet their monthly mortgage payments. In sum, our Low Income Solar Homes Program is a long term, powerful tool for community economic development and poverty mitigation that reduces lower-income families’ need for or reliance on traditional energy assistance programs.

4. Our program will benefit local utility companies.

Because the cost of power generated from the sun does not fluctuate throughout the lifetime of the solar panels, unlike the costs of conventional energy sources, which continue to rise each year–the power generated by low-income households will help to provide stable energy costs to our local electricity providers over the long run. Thus, low-income households can play a valuable role in the future economic development of their own communities.

Potentially huge economic development ahead for California!

This past Wednesday, September 11, 2013 California’s Legislature approved the largest shared renewable power program in the nation. If Governor Jerry Brown signs it, S.B. 43 will allow investments of up to 600 megawatts of renewable energy, enough to power about 100,000 homes. Of that total, 100 MW must be made available to residential customers: www.eenews.net/stories/1059987118

This compares to the 2 megawatts per solar garden proposed in Nebraska’s Solar Gardens Bill (LB557) sponsored by Senator Amanda McGill, and the 100 kilowatts suggested by Lincoln Electric Systems. See, Public Power Groups Oppose Solar Gardens Bill: http://journalstar.com/legislature/public-power-groups-oppose-solar-gardens-bill/article_8de6d84a-f201-5483-b203-fe6d2e398e65.html

Vote Solar is preparing a public petition urging Governor Brown to sign S.B. 43 into law: www.votesolar.org