City of Brownsville, Texas Joins National Program to Reduce Solar Energy Costs

ARTICLE | Jun 25, 2016

Brownsville, Texas has joined an elite cohort of nearly 30 cities and counties nationwide as a founding participant in SolSmart, a national program to encourage solar energy development locally. The SolSmart program will provide official recognition to cities and counties for making solar more affordable and accessible in the community.

Brownsville is among the nation’s first participants in the SolSmart program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. SolSmart is providing the community no-cost technical assistance to reduce barriers to solar energy growth in Brownsville and make solar more affordable for homes and businesses. The goal is for Brownsville to soon receive a national SolSmart designation – Bronze, Silver, or Gold – showing the community has taken key steps to encourage solar energy development.

As a Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) city under a White House-led economic development initiative, Brownsville has been working with a federal interagency team on innovative strategies to encourage economic growth. One of the city’s goals under the initiative is to reduce energy costs for residents, businesses, and the city.

“We are committed to reducing the costs of solar energy in our community, which will be particularly beneficial for low-income residents,” said Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez. “Solar energy is a key part of our strategy for creating new jobs and attracting new businesses in Brownsville. We are excited to be one of the nation’s first participants in the SolSmart program.”

“The U.S. Department of Energy is pleased to be working with the City of Brownsville and our other federal agency partners on a comprehensive strategy to build a fairer and more inclusive economy based on the next generation of energy technologies,” said David Foster, Senior Advisor, Office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy. “Job growth is fundamental to that strategy and SolSmart designation is one of the first things a community can do to promote growth in the solar sector.”

To receive a SolSmart designation, communities must take action to reduce solar “soft costs,” which are non-hardware costs that can increase the time and money it takes to install a solar energy system. Examples of soft costs include planning and zoning; permitting, interconnection, and inspection; financing; customer acquisition; and installation labor. Reducing these costs will lead to savings that are passed on to consumers.

Communities seeking designation are eligible to receive no-cost technical assistance from SolSmart experts. They can also apply to host SolSmart Advisors, which will be fully funded temporary staff embedded in up to 40 communities to help each achieve designation.

Brownsville is among nearly 30 communities nationwide that are “Early Adopters” in the SolSmart program. In Texas, the city of Plano is also among the first participants in the program. SolSmart is administered by a team of national experts led by the International City/County Management Association and The Solar Foundation.

“The role of local governments in building stronger and more resilient communities has never been greater,” said ICMA Executive Director Robert J. O'Neill, Jr. “Cities, towns, and counties consume a large portion of the nation’s electricity, which is why they can also have a significant impact on the financial, environmental, and economic health of the country by adopting solar energy technologies. The SolSmart program will recognize that impact.”

“We are excited to work with local governments to reduce costs and other barriers to solar energy development,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director of The Solar Foundation. “We hope many more communities across the nation will be encouraged to pursue a SolSmart designation and take advantage of the no-cost technical assistance available.”

SolSmart announced the finalized criteria for its solar designation program on April 27, 2016. Other communities can apply to join the SolSmart program and find more information at solsmart.org.

For more information, please visit City of Brownsville, TX

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