DOE Supports Energy Efficiency to Improve Community Resilience

Summer 2023 has been marked by record-breaking heat, unprecedented flooding, and a multitude of hurricanes, collectively constituting an extraordinary season. In 2023 alone, the United States has endured a staggering 23 weather or climate disasters, each resulting in losses exceeding $1 billion.

Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm discusses energy resilience at La Margarita in Salinas, Puerto Rico. Image Credit: US Department of Energy.

This alarming trend of increasingly frequent and severe natural disasters has not gone unnoticed and finds confirmation in the observations of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Their data reveals that the average annual occurrence of such events has more than doubled in the past five years compared to the average from 1980 to 2022.

On September 28, the White House unveiled a fresh National Climate Resilience Framework and convened the inaugural White House Summit on Building Climate Resilient Communities. This event brought together leaders from state, local, Tribal, and Territorial levels to collaborate on the most effective strategies for enhancing America's climate resilience.

President Biden's Investing in America Agenda has allocated over $50 billion towards climate resilience, equipping households and communities nationwide with valuable tools and resources to both cope with current climate challenges and ready themselves for future climate-related risks.

If one is considering enhancing their home's energy efficiency or engaging in community or rooftop solar investments, they are contributing significantly to bolstering their community's resilience. Curious about the collective actions taken by communities throughout the United States to fortify themselves against the challenges of a shifting climate and how the Department of Energy (DOE) aids these efforts to enhance safety, equity, and economic strength on a broader scale?

Energy Efficiency

Ensuring access to a secure building at a suitable temperature is of paramount importance for the well-being of communities during severe weather events and climate-related disasters. In California, the DOE is actively supporting innovative housing initiatives. These developments incorporate high-efficiency electric appliances, solar panels, and battery systems.

They are also integrated into microgrids designed to remain operational, even in the event of grid blackouts triggered by climate-induced wildfires, heatwaves, or storms. These collaborative efforts involve KB Home, SunPower Corp., Southern California Edison, Kia Corp., the University of California Irvine, Schneider Electric, and the DOE.

Cities like Dallas are prioritizing weatherization efforts to alleviate the pressure on the electric grid caused by extreme temperatures. Dallas is actively utilizing the Whole Home Dallas website as a platform to link residents with valuable resources for home repairs and enhancements.

These resources encompass income-based assistance from the DOE and tax credits. By implementing straightforward measures such as weather stripping, insulation, caulking, and the repair or replacement of doors and windows, residents in Dallas are not only enhancing the energy efficiency of their homes but also bolstering their resilience to extreme weather conditions.

For those considering ways to enhance the resilience of their homes, the starting point is clear. The DOE State and Community Energy Programs (SCEP) website offers a wealth of resources where one can find information to help locate the state's weatherization administrator, explore frequently asked questions regarding Home Energy Rebates, and stay informed about ongoing energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives specific to the state.

Distributed Electricity and Grid Resilience

The electricity grid, encompassing transmission and distribution, remains susceptible to various climate change impacts, ranging from disasters causing power line interruptions to elevated temperatures decreasing power line capacity or triggering surges in electricity demand for cooling purposes.

To counter these challenges, the DOE is making substantial investments, totaling over $13 billion, in grid enhancements. These investments aim to ensure the continued reliability of the power sector in the face of escalating threats posed by extreme weather and climate change.

Furthermore, DOE is actively supporting communities in adopting decentralized electricity sources, such as rooftop solar installations. These distributed sources of electricity can mitigate the consequences of power outages and provide protection to residents with medical conditions or other vulnerabilities that may render them particularly at risk during disasters.

In the aftermath of the widespread destruction caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017, approximately 50,000 rooftop solar arrays, often equipped with battery backups, were installed on homes across Puerto Rico.

When Hurricane Fiona hit the island in 2022, despite the extensive power outages affecting over 1 million people, nearly all homes equipped with solar panels maintained access to electricity. Recognizing the demonstrated effectiveness of rooftop solar in enhancing resilience, the DOE is proactively directing investments to facilitate greater accessibility to this technology for residents of Puerto Rico.

In December 2022, President Biden granted authorization for the allocation of $1 billion to create the Puerto Rico Energy Resilience Fund (PR-ERF), which is overseen by the Department of Energy's Grid Deployment Office (GDO). In the initial phase of PR-ERF funding, the GDO will provide incentives for the installation of approximately 30,000 to 40,000 residential solar and battery systems, with a particular focus on Puerto Rico's most vulnerable households.

In September 2023, the Department of Energy's Loan Programs Office (LPO) unveiled a partial loan guarantee of up to $3 billion designated for Sunnova Energy Corporation. This funding aims to increase the accessibility of distributed energy resources, encompassing rooftop solar, battery storage, and virtual power plants, for homeowners nationwide.

The initiative places a specific emphasis on households in economically disadvantaged communities throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, with a commitment to allocate at least 20% of the loans to homeowners in Puerto Rico.

DOE Supports Climate Resilience

Addressing the consequences of climate change is of paramount importance, and enhancing the country's climate resilience continues to be a foremost objective. The DOE is steadfast in its dedication to assisting communities in bolstering their energy security and climate resilience.

It is evident that community-driven solutions and innovation can be particularly potent in addressing these challenges. Ultimately, the federal government will persist in prioritizing climate resilience by nurturing capabilities, offering expert support, and extending technical and financial aid to advance climate resilience efforts throughout the United States.


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