Friday, June 21, 2024

Louisiana DENR Granted $156 Million in Federal Solar Funding

by BPT Staff
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The U.S. EPA announced today that the Louisiana Department of Energy and Natural Resources (DENR) has been chosen to receive $156 million in federal Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funds to initiate a statewide “Solar for Y’all” program, providing grants and loans for low-income and disadvantaged residents and communities to build out solar energy infrastructure to improve energy resilience.

With this funding, DENR’s Energy Office will oversee a Louisiana “Solar for Y’all” program intended to significantly expand the deployment of resilient solar energy installations for the state’s low-income and disadvantaged communities.

“Louisiana is in a uniquely positioned to benefit from this federal investment, with so much of its population in the areas of highest risk for devastating storms, such as Hurricanes Ida and Laura in recent years, that create widespread and long-lasting power outages,” DENR Secretary Tyler Gray said.

At its peak, Hurricane Laura caused over 600,000 outages, impacting more than 900,000 customers, with some outages lasting a month or longer. Following Hurricane Ida, power restoration times in some areas were measured in weeks. In 2021, the average customer in

Louisiana experienced more than 80 hours of power outages during the year due to extreme weather, compared to the national average of seven hours per year.

“Through this program, Louisiana can create a sustainable foundation for long-term impact and benefit for those most threatened and most in need,” Gray said.

Louisiana’s Solar for Y’all Program will focus on resiliency through enabling upgrades on single-family and multi-family homes to prepare them for solar energy equipment; developing coordinated low-cost and easy-to-access financing options for those who could not to access solar otherwise; creating new equitable loan programs for community resilience hubs, resilient schools, and disadvantaged businesses; providing long-term support to projects successfully deployed; and growing a strong workforce to support a new resilience-related business opportunities.

“Before allocating funds, it’s our responsibility to carefully assess viable opportunities, taking a comprehensive approach to fulfill Louisiana citizens’ energy needs. We will not invest in energy infrastructure that could compromise Louisiana’s resources unless our experts confirm its feasibility and alignment with our workforce, rural community support, and projected energy demand within available space,” Gray said. “For instance, we may explore options to alleviate grid strain in fence line communities where uninterrupted power is crucial for large existing users. This initiative could enhance safety for our workforce both within and beyond the fence line, ensuring reliable and resilient energy supply.”

This comprehensive approach will include a coordinated effort with communities, working with partners, community-based organizations, local governments, and others to do geographic-specific outreach and ongoing engagement to help residents understand options in adopting new resilient solar energy installations. This approach is intended to help overcome barriers to adoption that have been identified by communities, such as unfamiliarity with solar and complex administrative processes.

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