DOE names 22 communities to receive energy assistance through the Communities LEAP program – pv magazine USA

Communities LEAP Program aims to provide supportive services valued at up to $16M for community-driven clean energy transitions.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Local Energy Action Program, also called Communities LEAP, is an initiative designed to help energy-overburdened communities take direct control of their clean energy futures. The DOE just announced the first 22 communities that will receive support to create community-wide action plans that reduce local air pollution, increase energy resilience, lower utility costs and energy burdens, and provide long-term jobs and economic opportunities.

Nationally, more than 65% of low-income households face a high energy burden and more than 30% of all households have experienced some form of energy insecurity. The Communities LEAP opportunity is specifically open to low-income, communities that are also experiencing either direct environmental justice impacts, or direct economic impacts of shifting away from fossil fuels. The Communities LEAP Pilot aims to provide supportive services valued at up to $16M for community-driven clean energy transitions.

The 22 communities will receive support to assist them in their transition to a clean energy economy, and to build a healthier, more equitable, and sustainable future.

“The President committed to making a historic investment in our clean energy future and environmental justice,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “With today’s Communities LEAP announcement, we will use the power of the Federal government, DOE’s National Labs and other experts to help our communities develop clear, actionable plans to reimagine their energy future and protect the health and safety of all residents.”

The intention of the Communities LEAP is to help open the door for communities to access significant, additional DOE and other federal government programs, including those included in the $1.3 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Communities LEAP also implements the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 commitment, which aims to ensure that federal agencies deliver at least 40% of benefits from certain investments to disadvantaged communities and advances the work of the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities, which focuses on delivering federal investment to hard-hit energy communities.

The benefits of transitioning to a clean energy economy include lowering local air pollution and reducing energy burdens, but it also has the potential to bring in billions of dollars to communities across the country while generating good-paying jobs. In 2019, renewable energy investments in the US reached $55 billion and clean energy jobs paid 25% more than the national median wage. Workers in clean energy earned a median hourly wage of $23.89 compared to the national median wage of $19.14.

The 22 selected communities will work with DOE and its network of technical assistance providers, government and non-governmental partners, community-based organizations, utilities as well as environmental justice, economic development, and equitable investment organizations to develop roadmaps for clean energy economic development pathways. The inaugural Communities LEAP localities will pursue strategies for planning and investment in energy efficient buildings and beneficial electrification, clean energy development, clean transportation, critical minerals recovery, resilient microgrids and energy storage, manufacturing and industry opportunities.

The selected communities are:

  • Alachua County, Florida
  • Bakersfield, California
  • Birmingham (North Birmingham), Alabama
  • Columbia, South Carolina
  • Columbia Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Oregon, Washington, Idaho
  • Duluth, Minnesota
  • Hennepin County, Minnesota
  • Highland Park, Michigan
  • Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska
  • Jackson County, Illinois
  • Kern County, California
  • Lawrence, Massachusetts
  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • Mingo & Logan Counties, West Virginia
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Pembroke Township and Hopkins Park, Illinois
  • Pittsburgh (Hill District), Pennsylvania
  • Questa, New Mexico
  • Richmond, California
  • San Jose, California
  • Seattle (Beacon Hill), Washington

Commenting on what this means to Seattle’s Beacon Hill community, US Congressman Adam Smith noted that families in this community rely primarily on oil to heat their homes, which increases the already poor air quality in the area. “The technical assistance provided through this DOE program will help these community organizations led by El Centro de la Raza convert homes from oil furnaces to electric heat pumps, expand weatherization services, and ensure that every community member, regardless of language or culture barriers, is reached,” said Smith.

“The federal investment announced today will help drive new economic opportunities and support new and good-paying jobs in coal communities in West Virginia,” said US Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “As always, I will continue to advocate for policies and funding that will revitalize communities across the Mountain State and ensure they have the tools they need to build a brighter future.”

Learn more about the selected communities.

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