Molly Retter June 16, 2020

Federal funding for climate change research, technology, international assistance, and adaptation has increased from $2.4 billion in 1993 to $11.6 billion in 2014, with an additional $26.1 billion for climate change programs and activities provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has reported federal climate change funding in three main areas since 1993: technology to reduce emissions, science to better understand climate change and international assistance for developing countries. As one can see, the federal government has made an effort to promote sustainable energy and climate change initiatives throughout this country. This effort has caused local governments to follow in their footsteps. 

One popular trend seen in the budgets of local governments is the installation of solar panels on government buildings and the use of solar energy. Each region of the country has what’s called a “Solar Star,” which is a city with 50 or more watts of solar PV capacity installed per capita. Implementing sustainable initiatives, such as solar panels, in the budgets of local governments has become more common as public officials begin to see the merit of such programs, but how has COVID-19 impacted those plans? This article will first address this shift to solar energy seen in municipalities and then discuss the potential impacts of COVID-19.

SEE ENERGY AND SOLAR RFPS AT GOVDIRECTIONS

The United States continues to gradually transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources making it necessary for local governments to follow the movement. One common trend is the installation of solar panels on public buildings. This is because using solar energy decreases a municipality’s consumption of fossil fuel-powered electricity and offsets its carbon emissions. Reducing a municipality’s carbon footprint is not the only benefit of solar panels. Solar energy is now cheaper than buying power from the grid in most places in the United States.  

Since 2010, the cost to produce solar energy has dropped more than 60 percent and is expected to drop another 35 percent by 2022. Municipalities can reduce their costly electric bills by producing their own electricity through solar panels. The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) invites local governments across the country to meet their environmental, energy, economic, and domestic job creation goals through the utilization of solar energy. The EPA provides project development resources and industry experts for local governments to learn from. Check out various local governments’ progress here. The use of solar energy is most prevalent in western states, with California being the number one state to generate solar electricity due to its economic and environmental benefits. 

The question remains, how has COVID-19 impacted the installation of solar panels by municipalities? This pandemic has caused more than 72,000 solar workers to lose their jobs and economic uncertainty remains. States that have experienced the most job losses are Washington, Idaho, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The growth projections for the solar industry are now lower than expected and much government financing for local solar projects has dried up. To read more about how this pandemic has affected the solar industry, click here. However, there is still hope. The U.S. Solar Industry has called Congress to take necessary steps to stimulate the economy with solar energy. If Congress does, solar energy will continue to be a hot trend seen in the budgets of municipalities.