How Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy Investments are Building Climate Resilient Communities

How Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy Investments are Building Climate Resilient Communities

Households and communities across the country now have access to tools and resources to adapt to today’s climate impacts and prepare for future climate risks

Record-breaking heat, historic flooding, and a plethora of hurricanes – Summer 2023 has been nothing short of extreme. In 2023 alone, 23 weather or climate disasters with losses of over $1 billion each have hit the United States. If you noticed that natural disasters are more frequently causing severe damage, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) agrees- the average number of such events per year has more than doubled over the last five years, compared to the 1980-2022 average.

The White House has published a new National Climate Resilience Framework and has celebrated the first of its-kind White House Summit on Building Climate Resilient Communities to gather state, local, Tribal, and Territorial leaders to discuss the best strategies for improving America’s climate resilience. With more than $50 billion secured for climate resilience through President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda, households and communities across the country now have access to tools and resources to adapt to today’s climate impacts and prepare for future climate risks.  

If you are already thinking about improving your home’s energy efficiency or investing in community or rooftop solar, you are playing an important part in improving the resilience of your community. Wondering what communities across America are doing collectively and on a larger scale to become more resilient in a changing climate and how DOE is helping communities become safer, more equitable, and economically stronger in the process? Here are a few examples:

Energy efficiency

Access to a secure building at a safe temperature is vital to the welfare of communities during extreme weather events and climate disasters. In California, DOE is supporting new housing developments that are equipped with high-efficiency electric appliances, solar panels, and batteries, and built onto microgrids that can operate even if the grid experiences blackouts caused by climate-driven wildfires, heat waves, or storms. These developments are a collaboration between KB Home, solar energy company SunPower Corp., utility Southern California Edison, automaker Kia Corp., University of California Irvine, Schneider Electric, and the DOE.

Cities like Dallas are focusing on weatherization to limit the strain extreme temperatures place on the electric grid. Through the Whole Home Dallas website, the city is working to connect residents with resources that support home repairs and upgrades, including DOE income-based assistance and tax credits. By taking simple actions such as installing weather stripping, insulation, caulking, and repairing and replacing doors and windows, Dallas residents are making their homes more energy efficient and resilient to extreme weather.

If you are thinking about how your home can be more resilient, here’s where to start. The DOE State and Community Energy Programs (SCEP) website has resources to help you identify your state weatherization administrator, review frequently asked questions about Home Energy Rebates, and check out ongoing energy efficiency and renewable energy activities by state.

Distributed electricity and grid resilience

The electricity grid (both transmission and distribution) will continue to be affected in many ways by climate change, from disasters causing power line disruptions, to higher temperatures reducing power line capacity or leading to spikes in electricity demand for air conditioning. DOE is investing over $13 billion in grid improvements to ensure the reliability of the power sector in the face of growing threats from extreme weather and climate change.

DOE is also supporting communities to have distributed sources of electricity like rooftop solar, which can reduce the impact of power outages and protect residents with medical needs or other conditions that might make them particularly vulnerable during disasters.

After the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017, roughly 50,000 rooftop solar arrays were installed on homes in Puerto Rico, many with battery backups. When Hurricane Fiona struck the island in 2022, more than 1 million people lost power, but almost all homes equipped with solar panels retained electricity. Given the proven value of rooftop solar in improving resilience, DOE is actively making investments to make this technology more accessible to residents of Puerto Rico.  In December 2022, President Biden authorized $1 billion for the establishment of the Puerto Rico Energy Resilience Fund (PR-ERF), administered by DOE’s Grid Deployment Office (GDO). Through the first round of PR-ERF funding, GDO will incentivize the installation of roughly 30,000–40,000 residential solar and battery systems for Puerto Rico’s most vulnerable households. Separately, in September 2023, DOE’s Loan Programs Office (LPO) announced a partial loan guarantee of up to $3 billion to Sunnova Energy Corporation to make distributed energy resources, including rooftop solar, battery storage, and virtual power plants, more accessible to homeowners across the United States. The project focuses on households in disadvantaged communities across the United States and Puerto Rico, including at least 20% of loans to homeowners in Puerto Rico.

If you’re wondering what your rooftop’s potential is for solar, you can use these tools from the Solar Energy Technologies Office to find out.

Doe supports climate resilienceAddressing the effects of climate change is critical, and boosting our nation’s climate resilience remains a top priority. DOE is committed to supporting communities to become more energy secure and climate resilient, as it’s undeniable that community-driven solutions and innovation can be especially effective in solving issues. Ultimately, the federal government will continue to center climate resilience in its work through building capacity, providing expert resources, and providing technical and financial assistance to drive American climate resilience.

Photo: Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm discusses energy resilience at La Margarita in Salinas, Puerto Rico

 

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