Big investors Google and Sol Systems back small fixes

Google and clean-energy developer Sol Systems have unveiled a new approach to energy efficiency by pairing clean energy with community investment in two less prosperous US states.

The two giant corporates are providing seed funding to three electricity co-operatives and a non-profit, all US-based outfits. The idea is to spend money upfront to make homes more energy efficient so they can use clean energy more effectively.

The funding is part of broader strategy by the two multinationals to finance the deployment of 225MW of solar and 18MW of battery storage across North Carolina and South Carolina.

The utility-scale solar power will supply Google with renewable energy credits in a part of the US where little carbon-free electricity is available. It means Google can satisfy its desire to have round-the-clock clean energy for its data centres, and also help to slowly lower carbon emissions in those states.

Corporations have become the biggest driver of new clean energy projects in the US. Yet adding clean power to the grid is most helpful when paired with energy-efficiency improvements for the customers of that clean power.

“Energy efficiency is the low-hanging fruit that really sets people up for the benefits of lower-cost solar power,” says Adaora Ifebigh, Sol Systems’ Director of Impact. “Significant efficiency retrofits can halve energy use and carbon emissions in many homes, especially in older homes that have deferred maintenance needs. Those savings are particularly helpful for lower-income residents who pay a disproportionate amount of their monthly income on energy bills.”

Ifebigh says many people who would benefit from proposed energy savings through solar can’t participate in energy-efficiency assistance programs because their homes have other problems that must be attended to before efficiency upgrades can be made.

Providing access to financing for underlying repairs that make efficiency upgrades possible ​allows the critical health and safety issues to be attended to before moving on to the next phase.

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