Washington D.C. launches new low-income solar & job training program

Washington D.C. is moving into renewable energy in a big way, and not only for its more affluent residents. In 2016 the city passed an act to create a 50% by 2032 renewable energy mandate, the fifth-most aggressive in the nation, while providing either access to community solar or rooftop solar for 100,000 low-income residents by that date.

As a step to meeting this commitment to its less well-off residents, two agencies in the city government have launched Solar Works DC, a new program to train up to 225 district residents in solar installation and install PV systems on up to 300 low-income single family homes in the district over three years.

According to the Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census there were 1,180 solar jobs in Washington D.C. last year. If a lack of qualified workforce is the main barrier to growth – as has been suggested by some in the industry – an additional 225 installers trained under the program could increase the city’s solar workforce by up to 17%.

GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic will run the program for the first year and run a year-round training program under a $950,000 grant awarded by the city. These two activities – providing solar to low-income residents and training workers – is something that the non-profit has ample experience with.

“A local, qualified workforce is imperative to implement the District’s RPS, and this program connects DC residents to sustainable careers in this growing clean energy economy,” said GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic Executive Director, Nicole Steele.

GRID also notes that these installations will not only mean jobs, but will also allow low-income residents to access the money-saving benefits of solar, which the city puts at $600 annually.

“The partnership between (city agencies) DOEE, DOES, and GRID not only creates high-growth career pathways in our most vulnerable communities, but also reduces the energy burden faced by so many low-income families,” explains Steele.

Solar Works DC will operate three “cohorts” in the summer, fall and spring. The Summer portion will be the Green Zone Environmental Program, which will draw from participants in a six-week program for youth ages 18 to 24.