EPA Announces the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund Solar for All Program

$7 billion for solar to deliver meaningful benefits to low-income and disadvantaged communities across the country

A section of rooftop solar panel arrays installed across the New York City Housing Authority's Queensbridge Houses


Courtesy of NYCHA

This week, EPA took a major step in the implementation of the $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) by announcing a competitive application process for its $7 billion Solar for All program. Under Solar for All, EPA will competitively award grants to solar programs across the country that deliver meaningful benefits to low-income and disadvantaged communities (LI/DAC). Low-income households have thus far been disproportionately left out of our country’s clean energy transition – they face an average energy burden three times higher compared to non-low-income households, and are disproportionately less likely to adopt solar. Solar energy is also not reaching communities of color equally, as majority Black and Hispanic neighborhoods see significantly less rooftop solar installed compared to majority white neighborhoods. Many of these same communities have long lived with the wide-ranging and detrimental effects of environmental injustice, whether it be high levels of air pollution, water contamination, or the disproportionate siting of industrial facilities. 

The Solar for All competition is one of three programs under the GGRF, and it is explicitly designed to enable low-income and disadvantaged communities to deploy or benefit from solar. With Solar for All, EPA seeks to advance three GGRF program objectives:

  1. Reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses (GHG) and other air pollutants

  2. Deliver benefits of GHG- and air pollution-reducing projects to communities across the country, particularly LI/DAC

  3. Mobilize additional capital to stimulate increased deployment of these projects

The Program Details 

Solar for All will provide grants to states, Tribal governments, municipalities, and other eligible nonprofit lenders to expand existing low-income solar programs, or to create new solar programs that benefit LI/DAC. Solar for All dollars can go to projects delivering residential rooftop solar, residential community solar, associated storage, and enabling upgrades. Notably, the EPA lists energy efficiency improvements, electrical system upgrades, and structural building repairs as allowable enabling upgrades. NRDC has previously stressed the importance of pairing energy efficiency with solar to maximize the potential of this program, and we are excited about its inclusion by the EPA. 

EPA will require that a minimum of 75% (65% for Tribal government awardees) of funds provide financial assistance (defined flexibly to also include rebates, subsidies, forgivable and soft loans, and other financial products), to residential rooftop and residential-serving community solar projects. Much of the remaining award can be used for project-deployment technical assistance, which can include workforce training, customer education and outreach, and siting, permitting, and interconnection support.  

Applicants are expected ensure their program delivers “meaningful benefits” to LI/DAC. EPA defines meaningful benefits in five categories:

  1. Household savings – delivering a minimum of 20% of household savings to all households served under the program

  2. Expanding equitable access to solar generation to a diversity of households

  3. Increasing resilience of power generation during grid outages

  4. Facilitating community ownership models that allow LI/DAC to access economic benefits of clean energy asset ownership

  5. Investing in workforce development, delivering prevailing wage jobs, and supporting women and minority-owned businesses and contractors

The Award Details  

EPA will make up to 60 awards to states, Tribal governments, municipalities, and eligible nonprofit lenders. Up to 56 awards will go to US states and territories, up to 5 awards to Tribal governments, and up to 10 awards to multi-state programs. These awards will be eligible for differing amounts of funding based on the number of households a program serves:

  • Small sized programs (up to 10,000 households) can receive between $25-100 million
  • Medium-sized programs (10,001-30,000 households) can receive between $100-250 million
  • Large-sized programs (greater than 30,000 households) can receive $250-400 million

What’s next?  

Solar for All applicants must send a Notice of Intent (NOI) to apply for each application they intend on submitting. Each NOI must include the amount of funding requested, the award being applied to, where the program will occur, and the number of applications that entity plans to submit. In addition, letters in support of the applicant must be signed by authorized officials from the entity’s executive office (such as a governor, mayoral, or CEO) and included in the NOI. NOIs are due to GGRF@epa.gov in a phased manner by the following deadlines: 

July 31st: States, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico
August 14th: Territories, municipalities, and nonprofits
August 28th: Tribal governments

Final application packages are due September 26th.

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