CBC Takes Calls from Concerned Black Americans

Author: D. Kevin McNeir     Published: 3/25/2020     Washington Informer

Karen Bass

First of a two-part series

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) continues to convene teleconferences with the Black Press, elected officials, nonprofits and other interested African Americans providing updates on how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the lives and livelihoods of the Black community and what the future may hold.

Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), CBC chair, led the most recent conversation March 20 which focused on the stimulus bill (estimated to be a package totaling $1-2 trillion) which Congress hoped to approve in the coming days, the Census and the 2020 vote.

“We’re in crisis across the nation but we cannot lose momentum,” Bass said, referring to the importance of African Americans to reply to recently-mailed questionnaires from the U.S. Census Bureau as well as registering to vote and preparing for the general election in November.

“We really want to hear from you so you can tell us how the pandemic and economic crisis are impacting the Black community in the District and across the U.S.,” she said.

She further acknowledged what remains prominent among the challenges facing Blacks and others including the elderly, the homeless, the incarcerated and the infirm who routinely find their issues placed on the back burner in America — their health.

“Naturally, our folks want to know, quite simply, how they can keep themselves safe from the coronavirus,” she said. “But members of the CBC remain committed to making sure that as the third stimulus package becomes fine-tuned and approved, that the bailout helps those who clean our airports or provide services as hourly employees first before any financial assistance goes to the airlines.

“If Congress doesn’t protect the most vulnerable members of our society, then we’re prepared to vote against any proposed legislation,” Bass added.

Coronavirus: Far More Contagious, Deadlier Than the Flu

Two associate professors at the University of Virginia School of Medicine [UVASM], both Black, joined the teleconference to answer questions and clarify misconceptions about the coronavirus.

“COVID-19 is a member of the coronavirus family with each strain as far reaching as the common cold,” said Dr. Ebony J. Hilton, UVASM, Anesthesiology Dept. “But it’s this newest strain spread mostly through air droplets, which no one has been able to secure an immunity, which is highly-more contagious than the flu and which since its emergence has proven to be far deadlier than any we’ve ever experienced.

“The infection rate for COVID-19 is 2.5 times higher than that of the flu which causes about 56,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. In comparison, the Centers for Disease Control estimate the death rate from coronavirus could be from 200,000 to as high as 1.7 million Americans by year’s end. We hope we can steer people to realize just how deadly this virus is,” Dr. Hilton said.

Dr. Hilton said beliefs about coronavirus being more dangerous for the elderly remain misleading if not inaccurate.

“While those 80 or over represent 20 percent of the nation’s population more likely to die from coronavirus complications, 40 percent of the hospitalized in the U.S. are under 50 years old — 20 percent of those requiring hospitalization between the ages of 20 and 44 years old,” she said.

Should Americans follow recommendations related to the practicing of social distancing? Dr. Hilton says, “definitely,” especially if you live in highly-populated areas.

“In the U.S., we face both a health and a financial crisis, especially in urban areas which are highly-populated by Black and brown residents — 22 million, or 80 percent of the American population, represent urban dwellers — that equates to between 160 and 200 million Americans becoming infected,” Dr. Hilton emphasized.

“Without adhering to social distancing and being diligent in checking for symptoms and getting tested — all ways to better contain the virus — we may see as many as 1.7 million Americans not living to see 2021.”

Dr. Taison Bell, UVASM, Infectious Disease and Pulmonary Critical Care Medicine, answered questions about how the coronavirus is impacting Blacks. So far, he said, data released from the CDC has been highly objective and not indicated if Blacks, who already represent the top tier from among eight-of-thirteen leading causes of death in the U.S., despite representing less than 14 percent of the total U.S. population, represent greater numbers of those infected by or succumbing to the coronavirus.

“We cannot say whether Blacks are being tested at rates equivalent to whites,” Dr. Bell said.

“In most areas, what we’re seeing is three criteria that tend to raise one’s chances of being tested, particularly given the inadequate number of test kits currently available: wealth, white and womb-less [a woman without children]. We’re still hoping that both the CDC and the W.H.O. will make the testing rates and related information more transparent,” he said.

In his comments about testing, Dr. Bell further noted frustrations for health care providers and hospital systems being further stymied due to the delay of America in recognizing the severity of the coronavirus.

“At this point, we’re in different stages of the virus — we’re well beyond the ability to contain it and have now entered mitigation — that’s advising maintaining a distance of six feet or more to help flatten the curve and slow the capacity. Still, it’s spreading rapidly in urban centers (New York City has now become the epicenter of COVID-19 in the U.S.),” he said.

“Also, we’re still in high flu season which puts additional strain on our hospitals which are already at an inadequate capacity for beds,” Dr. Bell said. “Now we’re focusing on access to resources, access to care and the unique characteristics of the virus which collectively make this such a highly-contagious and fast-spreading virus.”

In part two of this series, we will look at the issues raised by the Black business community and leaders including words from Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York) and how the pending stimulus package (which was still being vetted as this edition went to press) will benefit African Americans, manly of whom work in the service industries or are part-time employees. Comments and questions will further address food and water deserts in the nation as well as concerns about housing shortages and the challenge Black families continue to face in paying utility bills or securing the Internet.

Maryland Gets Federal Disaster Designation Amid Pandemic

Author:William J Ford            Published: 3/27/2020 Washington Informer

Larry Hogan

President Donald Trump declared that a major disaster exists in the state of Maryland amid the coronavirus pandemic, the White House announced Thursday.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan pushed for the federal declaration, which allows the state, local governments and some nonprofit agencies to receive federal assistance to combat the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

“This declaration will help provide much-needed funding for state and local governments and nonprofits, and it will be another important step in Maryland’s aggressive and coordinated response to COVID-19,” Hogan said in a statement.

Hogan, who chairs the National Governors Association, also reiterated his requests made March 19 to the president and vice president that include providing at least 50 percent of supplemental funding to the states, increasing access to masks, test and extraction kits and extending the deadlines for both the census and Real ID.

The state health department announced Thursday its highest one-day jump of confirmed coronavirus cases with 157, bringing the statewide total to 580. As of that day, the state recorded four deaths, including two in Prince George’s County, one in Baltimore County and one in Montgomery County.

The state Department of Education posted a statement on its website Thursday that all child care providers must close by the end of the day.

During the state of emergency, only those approved by the state can serve children of parents and guardians who are essential personnel who work in fields such as health care and public sector, information technology and food and agriculture. A list of the approved businesses that can remain open and those who work for them is available

For licensed child care centers who want to remain open Monday to only serve children of essential personnel, <a href=”https://governor.maryland.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/OLC-Interpretive-Guidance-COVID19-04.pdf “>on the governor’s website</a>. must apply to its regional licensing specialists before serving eligible families and conduct “a thorough cleaning.” The statement doesn’t explain what constitutes a full cleaning.

The centers will provide care to the children at no cost.

Eligible programs are slated to be posted at earlychild.marylandpublicschools.org, but those labeled “essential personnel” can only have access to locate which centers are available. People can also call 877-261-0060 between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Meanwhile, the state Board of Elections held a teleconference meeting Wednesday with a recommendation for voters to mail in their ballots for the June 2 primary due to the coronavirus.

A special general election for the 7th Congressional District will be conducted by mail only April 28 for the vacated seat of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings.

Because of the coronavirus outbreak, Hogan issued an executive order on March 17 to postpone the primary election previously scheduled for April 28.

Four organizations — Common Cause Maryland, League of Women Voters of Maryland, Maryland PIRG and ACLU of Maryland — requested some recommendations in a March 18 letter such as allowing same-day registration and receiving absentee ballots for the April 28 primary and allowing some voting centers to remain open June 2.

“We are also concerned at the possibility of disenfranchising thousands of eligible voters during the 7th Congressional District special general election,” according to the letter. “With both elections only being a few weeks away, we need to continue taking action to ensure all eligible voters are able to exercise their right to vote without putting their health at risk during this critical time.”

Montgomery County Green Bank: Green Notes: March 2020

Author: Tom Deyo                 Published: 3/25/2020        info@mcgreenbank.org

 

  • Stay Healthy and Safe. Focus on Resiliency.
  • Clean Energy Advantage Program Launched
  • Meet our New Chief Investment Officer – Steve Morel
  • Green Partner Highlight: LewLew
  • Incentive Opportunity: Resilient MD
  • MCGB in the Community
  • March 25 Board Meeting
Stay Healthy and Safe. Focus on Resiliency.

As our community takes all necessary measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, we here at the Montgomery County Green Bank want to express our wish of healthy and safe outcomes to all our partners and community members. As many organizations are doing, we are temporarily working remotely. So while we are not physically in the office, we are still operating and here to support you and available to answer your questions.
Though the current situation is creating a great deal of uncertainty for many, we want to emphasize that we intend to remain a partner to you and your work in any way we can. A core and steadfast aspect of our mission is resiliency. The Green Bank looks to be a stabilizing force and a source for recovery in a sustainable and resilient manner.

We welcome your ideas on how the Green Bank can be supportive at this time, and for when we turn the corner on this current situation. Please reach out to us with your suggestions.

Stay safe, be well,

Tom Deyo


Clean Energy Advantage Program Launched

In February, Montgomery County Green Bank launched our new Clean Energy Advantage (CEA) Residential Financing Program in partnership with NASA Federal Credit Union and Clean Energy Federal Credit Union – our Participating Lenders.
 
The CEA Program connects customers of Participating Contractors with preferred loan options for energy upgrades offered EXCLUSIVELY to Montgomery County homeowners through CEA’s lenders.  
 
Homeowners can access the lenders and their preferred rates for Montgomery County homeowners ONLY through Participating Contractors enrolled with the Montgomery County Green Bank.  Loans can cover up to $35,000 in energy improvements with terms out to 12 years, allowing deeper and more comprehensive energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades.

 The CEA’s initial Participating Contractors include:

Atlas Home Energy Solutions
Glenmont Heating & Air Conditioning
Elysian Energy Solutions
Home Energy Savings Solution
Energy Efficiency Experts LLC

To learn more, visit the Green Bank website: CEA Program.

Meet the CIO: Steve Morel

We are excited to welcome Steve Morel as the Bank’s Chief Investment Officer. As CIO, Steve will be focused on increasing our investment in clean energy and energy efficiency activities. From an expansion of existing offerings to new product offerings, Steve will help grow the Bank’s capabilities to address the County’s sustainability objectives.

Learn more about Stephen’s background and his hopes for the Green Bank.

Or reach out to say “hello”!
Email: smorel@mcgreenbank.org
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephen-morel-b650a225


Green Partner Profiles: LewLew Inc.
Our Green Partners Series highlights our partners in the community that help make MC Green Bank a success.

We talked with Bob Harmon, VP of Business Development at LewLew to learn about their latest successes and why they are proud to partner with the Montgomery County Green Bank.

“LewLew’s ongoing interest in supporting the Montgomery County Green Bank is to make all available long-term financing options available to our prospective clients.” – Bob Harmon, LewLew (full interview)

Want to be featured as a Green Partner? We invite participating contractors to reach out to us to feature their work in in our community!

Incentive Opportunity: Resilient Maryland
The Maryland Energy Administration is pleased to announce the FY20 Resilient Maryland Pilot incentive program (“Resilient Maryland”) aimed at driving growth in the adoption of Microgrid and other distributed generation energy systems which provide cleaner, affordable, and reliable power to key entities across the State of Maryland.

This Program provides funds necessary to plan and design shovel-ready projects that will: bolster local governmental essential services; attract new industries to economic development districts; provide resilient and efficient energy to academic organizations; and provide high-quality power to businesses, multifamily housing communities, hospitals and medical institutions. In addition, completed projects will contribute to meeting Maryland’s sustainability initiatives.

Applications are due 11:59pm on May 1, 2020. To learn more, visit https://energy.maryland.gov/business/Pages/ResilientMaryland.aspx
MCGB in the Community
MC Green Bank always wants to know what residents and business of Montgomery County need to advance their clean energy vision. We do our best to meet you where you and your clients are at and join opportunities to get the word out about the benefits of clean energy projects. Here’s a recap on events that MCGB has been involved in this year so far:

Leaders in Energy Annual Gathering: On January 23, MC Green Bank CEO Tom Deyo was part of a panel at the 6th Annual Green Financing Forum co-hosted by the Leaders in Energy and Potential Energy DC. This two-part program featured industry professionals discussing the ins-and-outs of project debt financing, green banks, as well as specific case studies highlight best practices. Deyo spoke alongside Cheryl Chan from the District of Columbia and Alex Kragie of the American Green Bank Consortium.

Climate Action Coffee: Financing A Local Living Economy Through Green Banking: On the morning of February 12, CEO Tom Deyo joined a conversation about the role of green banking to mitigate climate change and promote a just transition to a green economy.

Montgomery County Climate Action Plan Town Hall: On February 27, the Green Bank joined many at the Town Hall meeting of the County Executive and County Council for the County’s Climate Action Plan.  The Green Bank was called out as a tool for the County’s efforts and looks forward to continuing its support of the stakeholder process and the efforts coming out of the Climate Action Plan.

Board of Directors Meeting
Date: March 25, 2020

Location: Meeting will be via teleconference.

Montgomery County Green Bank will be holding a Board Meeting on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. The public is permitted to attend this meeting. If you would like to join, please RSVP in advance to info@mcgreenbank.org and you will be provided information on how to join the meeting.

The meeting agenda can be found here.

 

DCSEU Workforce Development Externship Program

Author: Shelley Cohen                Published: 3/24/2020       DCSEU

DCSEU Your Guide to Green

EXCLUSIVE OPPORTUNITY   |   March 2020

 

Solar installers on building

The DCSEU and MDVSEIA are partnering to bring an exclusive opportunity to DC Solar Companies to become a DCSEU Extern Host Site! As a solar company in the District we invite you to learn more about our program and how YOU can become a partner host site for one of our externs. The DCSEU’s next cohort of its Workforce Development Externship Program will be kicking off mid-May for DC residents interested in pursuing careers within the solar industry and building operations field. We are actively engaging host sites now so that we can find an extern that meets your company’s needs.

Join us for a webinar on 3/20/2020 with more information about the program for interested parties.

Friday March 20th, 2020

11:00 am – 12:00 pm EST

Register in advance here.

The Workforce Development program aims to educate DC Residents on the fundamentals of the solar and energy efficiency fields by placing them as ‘Externs’ with DC-based solar companies offering the following benefits:

  • Externs are paid a living wage and 100% sponsored by the DCSEU for the duration of the Externship (3-5 months, on average).
  • Externs work through a professional development curriculum at weekly DCSEU meetings, earning course credits towards NABCEP PVA and LEED GA certification, while practicing on-the-job training at their host sites.
  • Hosts get the opportunity to mentor an individual new to the solar industry, with the commitment to potentially hire after their completion of the Externship.

We invite you to learn more about hosting an extern on 3/20 and look forward to meeting you and answering your questions during the webinar. Current solar partners include WDC Solar and Greenscape Environmental Services!

For further information or questions regarding the Workforce Development program, please reach out to workforcedevelopment@dcseu.com.

DC Sustainable Energy Utility

80 M Street SE, Suite 310, Washington, DC 20003
P 202-479-2222
Toll-Free 855-MY-DCSEU (855-693-2738)
info@dcseu.com

The District of Columbia Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) helps DC residents and businesses use less energy and save money. Learn more >>

DC Sustainable Energy Utility

80 M Street SE, Suite 310, Washington, DC 20003
P 202-479-2222
Toll-Free 855-MY-DCSEU (855-693-2738)
info@dcseu.com

Washington Gas will be waiving new late fees and suspending disconnections

Author: Sandra Mattavous-Frye   Published: 3/22/20      DCPSC

DC People’s Counsel@DCOPC
Follow
DC People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye
Washington Gas
@washingtongas

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Washington Gas will be waiving new late fees and suspending disconnections. As a reminder, you can manage your account through eservice.washgas.com. For all gas-related emergencies, please call 1-844-WASHGAS (927-4427)
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GODADDY COVID-19 SMALL BUSINESS SUPPORT

Author: GoDaddy <donotreply@godaddy.com  3/22/2020

Open
We
Stand

Open We Stand is for anyone who is keeping the economic health of small business top of mind in this challenging time. It’s for shop owners minding their customers’ and employees’ safety — and for everyone who stands with small business.

This website has resources, inspiration and connection to other everyday entrepreneurs with creative solutions to keep their businesses open, even if their doors are closed due to COVID-19.

Answers that keep you
open for business – even if your doors are closed.

Small businesses are adapting to stay open.

Right now, a different way of doing business is needed to stay open and keep the community safe. Here’s how some businesses are doing precisely that.

Ahana Yoga

In the Miami Design District, a yoga studio goes virtual, offering online classes and outdoor pop-ups. Check back for full story.

GG Brows

Atlanta master aesthetician and entrepreneur GG Green takes her salon services virtual with online classes. Check back for full story.

A mark of solidarity.

Display the #OpenWeStand badge on your website, Instagram story, Facebook profile or wherever you want people to see that you’re open for business even though your doors are closed — or that you’re actively supporting these businesses.

What GoDaddy’s doing.

GoDaddy has responded to COVID-19 by doing whatever we can to keep your business open. Our services are up and running. We’re keeping our employees safe and ready to help. And we have resources to help you adapt and stay up and running.

Learn More

Minimizing Impact to Our Customers

We’re giving away free tools that keep your employees and customers informed about your business to lessen the economic impact.

Ensuring We’re Available for Our Customers

We’ve taken the necessary steps to keep our employees safe so they’re available to help you 24/7, and we’ll continue to adapt as needed.

Follow Our COVID-19 Reporting:

Author: newsletter@email.frontline.org 3/22/2020   FRONTLINE

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“Covering Coronavirus: Seattle, Washington”

As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the globe, FRONTLINE has launched a new audio miniseries about our related reporting called “Covering Coronavirus.” This audio series will take you inside the stories our documentary film teams are exploring as they investigate this historic moment — offering new reporting and insights from producers who are covering the unfolding coronavirus story from Northern Italy, to rural Ohio. Listen wherever you get your podcasts, or via The FRONTLINE Dispatch feed.

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Facing Coronavirus, “Food Pantries Are Already Feeling the Pinch”

Producer Jezza Neumann reports from Athens County, Ohio, on how the outbreak is reshaping efforts to feed an increasing number of children and adults in need.

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“This Is the New Reality”: Reporting on COVID-19 from Washington State

Miles O’Brien begins his reporting on the novel coronavirus outbreak in Washington state for FRONTLINE.

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A Message About FRONTLINE’s Coronavirus Coverage from Our Executive Producer, Raney Aronson-Rath

“Especially in times of uncertainty and fear… it’s our duty as journalists in public media to bring you reporting that is clear-eyed and trustworthy,” says Aronson-Rath.

MORE FROM FRONTLINE

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FRONTLINE Joins the Trust Project

This week, FRONTLINE joined the ranks of The Trust Project’s global news partners in an effort to increase transparency, accountability and trust in journalism.

  TUESDAY, MARCH 24

Up Next on FRONTLINE: “NRA Under Fire”

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The NRA once dominated America’s conversation about guns. But as the 2020 election approaches, it faces internal strife – and opposition from a new generation of gun control advocates. FRONTLINE investigates in NRA Under Fire. Tune in or stream.

Planning your weekend? Look no further.

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Like this email?

Follow FRONTLINE:

Want to know when FRONTLINE airs next?

Text “FRONTLINE” to 617-300-0810

WHAT’S AVAILABLE THROUGH SBA?

Author: Larry Gilmore,CMP, AMP 3/22/2020     ClearBlu Capital Group

ClearBlu Capital Group is committed to taking care of small businesses and will continue to be here for you amid the uncertainty of COVID-19.

We want to assure you that we take the health and well-being of our community, customers, and associates very seriously. Like you, we’re closely monitoring the quickly developing effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

WHAT’S AVAILABLE THROUGH SBA?

  • SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance and can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing.

  • These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses. The interest rate for non-profits is 2.75%.

  • SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years. Terms are determined on a case-by-case basis, based upon each borrower’s ability to repay.

  • SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans are just one piece of the expanded focus of the federal government’s coordinated response, and the SBA is strongly committed to providing the most effective and customer-focused response possible.

  • For questions, please contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center at 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or e-mail  disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

AREAS AVAILABLE & HOW TO APPLY  FOR DISASTER RELIEF SBA LOANS:
https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19

GENERAL GUIDANCE FOR EMPLOYERS:
https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources#section-header-0

We are all in this together. We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and will follow guidance from public health officials and government agencies, so we can continue to support our customers as needed.

Always feel free to reach out to a ClearBlu Capital Group team member if you have general questions or need assistance in any other area.

Segregation, Reparations and Cultural Appropriation: Maryland Passes Legislation Settling HBCU Lawsuit

Author:   Michael Harriot           Published:  3/16/2020    The Root

Cheryl Kagan | Maryland State Senator – District 17

Maryland state senators voted to send more than a half-billion dollars to four majority-black institutions of higher learning, settling a 13-year-old lawsuit in which federal courts repeatedly found the state guilty of systematically discriminating against historically black colleges and universities.

On Sunday, the Baltimore Sun reported that Maryland’s state Senate unanimously passed a bill sending $580 million to Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore over the next 10 years. House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones’ funding proposal had already passed the state’s House of Delegates by a veto-proof 129-2 margin.

The Sun reports:

The money would help the schools create academic programs, expand scholarships, recruit faculty and market the schools.

The legislation is designed to force the state to settle a long-running lawsuit that alleges Maryland’s government made decisions that harmed the viability of historically black colleges and universities.

Sen. Obie Patterson, a Prince George’s County Democrat, called the legislation “a great, great compromise bill.”

”Certainly, there will be some who say we didn’t go far enough or we didn’t get as much as we could,” Patterson said, before adding that he had spoken with leaders of the schools. “They assured me they were pleased with the progress we made.”

So what was the dispute all about?

The very essence of the legal claim was about cultural appropriation, segregation and flat-out racism. The lawsuit (which again, the state lost) claimed Maryland’s funding practices created and perpetuated “sophisticated as well as simple minded modes of discrimination.”

Like most states, each of Maryland’s state-supported schools fulfills a different “mission” for residents seeking higher learning. Some colleges are dedicated to educating teachers while others focus on science and math. Of course, during the days of Jim Crow, the state’s HBCUs, which now operate under the University System of Maryland, offered black students their only chance for a college degree because…segregation.

In 2006, a coalition of black college alumni alleged that the state had essentially created an unequal playing field by stealing innovative educational techniques from black universities and duplicated them at white colleges (Or, as America calls it, “inventing”). The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education—a group composed of HBCU grads — filed a lawsuit after the Maryland attorney general warned that the state was “vulnerable legally” for its treatment of HBCUs.

The historically black institutions had created some of the state’s first programs for green sustainability studies; computer sciences; aging studies; and health care facilities management, many of which were later duplicated by Maryland’s white state schools.

For instance, Bowie State offered the only Master’s of Science in computer science as a state school until Towson introduced the exact same program in 1994, causing the Bowie’s enrollment to drop “from 119 in 1994 to 29 in 2008, while Towson’s enrollment skyrocketed from 23 in 1994 to 101 according to the suit.

Morgan State University, the state’s “urban research institution,” created a groundbreaking program that offered an accelerated Master’s of Business Administration…Until the University of Baltimore and Towson University both replicated the program. Morgan State had even offered to expand its MBA program, arguing that it was unnecessary to have two of the exact same programs in the three different state schools within a 15-mile radius.

Maryland did it anyway.

The Coalition argued that duplicating these programs not only violated the missions of state colleges, but the practice also kneecapped the HBCUs by giving white colleges more money for the exact same programs that had been pilfered from black schools.

However, the state’s attorneys insisted that the black programs received less money because the HBCUs had fewer students. In response, the Coalition explained that the HBCUs had fewer students because Maryland essentially undermined their ability to compete with better-funded white schools. Plus, if every school was supposed to have a different purpose, the Coalition countered, there could only be one reason that the state allowed this duplication:

White people don’t want to go to college with black people.

In 2013, a federal judge ruled in favor of the HBCUs, finding that the state’s “unnecessary duplication influences student demographics” at black colleges adding that HBCUs
will not be able to increase their non-black enrollment if their offerings continue to be unnecessarily duplicated.”

“The controlling question is not whether the state has done ‘enough’ to integrate its institutions of higher learning,” wrote District Judge Catherine Blake. [R]ather, it is whether the state has “le[ft] in place policies rooted in its prior officially segregated system.”

Blake ordered the parties to work out a settlement but Republican lawmakers and the state’s governor repeatedly lowballed the HBCUs with offers that ranged from $100 million to $200 million. Meanwhile, activists, education advocates and the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus have rejected lower offers to repair the disparities.

But now they’ve finally reached an agreement.

Kristen Clarke, the president of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, called the new legislation a “major victory in our fight for equitable treatment of HBCUs.”

Companies Providing Financial Relief During COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Author: Credit Sesame      Published: 3/17/2020

family working at home during coronovirus quarantine

While your health is of the utmost importance, we understand that many of you are also anxious about your finances and how you and your family can weather this unprecedented time.

In addition to monitoring your credit and helping you improve it through our app, we’ve also compiled this list of useful tips on how to stay financially afloat and maximize your available cash and credit. It contains useful information on companies that offer flexible payment options during this time to help you prioritize your payments. We are continually updating the list, so please check it regularly for any updates, and feel free to share it with family and friends.

  1. Ask your card issuer, bank or lender about temporary relief. One of the most effective moves you can make is to call the customer service number on the back of their credit cards to ask about flexibility options during the coronavirus outbreak. Some companies have already made related announcements and set up specific pages on their website related to their COVID-19 response:
    • American Express: Cardmembers can reach out to Customer Care Professionals, who will work with you to find personal solutions which may include waiving late fees or return check fees, waiving interest charges for a period of time, reduced monthly payments or a temporary interest rate reduction.
    • Apple: You can enroll in their Customer Assistance Program, which will allow you to skip your March payment without incurring interest charges on your Apple Card.
    • Bank of America: They are offering assistance to qualifying consumer and small business clients facing hardships, including forbearance with certain fees.
    • Barclays: Customers are encouraged to reach out to the specialist teams at Barclays for assistance. They are also enabling customers to apply for a temporary increase on their credit card limit.
    • Capital One: All customers will be eligible for assistance depending on the type of product they have and their individual needs, including minimum payment assistance, deferred loan assistance, and fee suppression.
    • Chase: The bank is working with our customers on a case-by-case basis right now.
    • Citibank: Customers are encouraged to contact the bank for support with waivers on monthly service fees, waived penalties for early CD withdrawal, fee waivers on remote deposit capture for small business customers, credit line increases, collection forbearance programs, and mortgage hardship programs.
    • Discover: Customers may receive assistance that can include support related to payment timing, fees, and late payments.
    • Fifth Third Bank: They are offering coronavirus hardship assistance for customers needing loan support.
    • LendingClub: They have the ability to work with their borrowers on skipping payments and delaying payments when hardship related to this does occur.
    • NetCredit: They have developed an FAQ section on their website for current borrowers and are willing to work with impacted customers to adjust their payment schedule.
    • PNC Bank: Customers are encouraged to reach out directly, and the bank is working with them on a case-by-case basis.
    • Truist: Customers experiencing financial hardship due to coronavirus can reach out to customer service.
    • U.S. Bank: The bank is offering product discounts and other customized solutions, including lowered interest rates on select loan products.
    • Wells Fargo: Customers experiencing hardship from the coronavirus disease can call customer service to speak with a trained specialist about their options.
  2. Utilities, Mobile Phone and Cable companies are pledging to keep customers connected. There are many companies that are coming together to provide support to all consumers during this time with late-payment forgiveness. This helps provide an opportunity for consumers who do not have a steady income right now to re-prioritize bill payments. Below is a list of companies that we know of that are making these pledges, and we’ll continue to update it as we learn more:
    • Utilities Companies (full list here): Many electric and gas companies are suspending service disconnections for customers with unpaid bills during the coronavirus crisis, or are being ordered to suspend disconnections by regulators or other government officials. Some are also offering flexible payment plans for those impacted.
    • AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, Comcast, and dozens of other cable and internet service providers (full list here): The telecommunications and cable companies have signed the Federal Communications Commission’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge, which means they will waive late fees, suspend service terminations, and open hot spots for Americans that need them.

Other tactics to consider stabilizing your near-term needs include:

  • Request to increase your credit limit for existing cards. Increasing your credit lines can help provide a buffer for necessary purchases, especially for consumers that no longer have a reliable income due to the COVID-19-related business closures. All it takes is a phone call to the number on the back of your credit card to see what they can do. A greater credit line could also help improve your credit score. However, it is important to still make sure you are budgeting appropriately so that you do not end up further in debt. Many credit card issuers have also announced emergency support, including credit line increases and heightened fraud security.
  • Apply for an “emergency credit” card. Applying for a 0% APR credit card can help provide an interest-free buffer for emergencies. This can also help improve your credit score by increasing your account mix and helping your credit usage. Similar to increasing your credit limit, this should be done in conjunction with a strict budget to ensure you are not accumulating more debt since you will need to pay it off eventually.
  • Use Mobile Banking. Many banks have closed their branches, and leveraging mobile banking is a productive way to access your funds and all of your banking services without needing to put your health or the health of others at risk.

We’re hopeful that this information can help stabilize your finances during this time. Please let us know if you have any comments below. And most importantly, please stay safe and healthy.

You can trust that we maintain strict editorial integrity in our writing and assessments; however, we receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners and get approved.
Published March 17, 2020

Top trends for energy access in 2020

Author:    William Brent           Published:  1/20/2020     Power for All

DRE Technologies

January’s arrival started the countdown on the last decade to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which also means that it is once again time for the annual Power for All list of the top trends we expect to see in the coming year. You might also get a kick out of seeing how we did in our predictions for 2019 (by our count, we got 8 of 10 right, missing the mark on blockchain and small-scale wind).

One megatrend continues to be that our sector — the decentralized renewable energy sector in emerging markets — is scaling. While this is not “news”, it’s worth remembering. The markers of sector maturity are there (companies failing, increased merger & acquisition activity, etc), and this should be welcomed, not feared.

So, in no particular order, here’s what to look out for in 2020.

  1. Country, my country: Real change occurs at the national and sub-national levels. The massive $350 million World Bank loan to Nigeria last year was the start of a trend that will see much greater momentum in 2020: well-funded, country-level programs. Togo, Ethiopia, Uganda, Madagascar, Mozambique, and many other countries will see more dedicated interventions. Nigeria’s success or failure is still to be determined and will continue to be highly scrutinized. Ethiopia will be a close second, given its size and potential impact. But we must not forget: more money and support at the country level assumes a country’s ability to absorb it, i.e. a viable market ecosystem. And that will be a major barrier. For more perspective, check out our 25×25 partnership.
  2. New leadership, new direction: Most notably, the arrival of Damilola Ogunbiyi as the new CEO of SEforALL signals an injection of new energy and direction for the overall renewable energy movement, including access. A formidable fundraiser with an entrepreneurial, action-oriented DNA, we’ve had the pleasure of working closely with Ms. Ogunbiyi in Nigeria. It remains to be seen how that translates to the United Nations bureaucracy. Other leadership changes are happening too, at the world’s largest donor, the European Commission, which has a new head of energy, the dynamic Ditte Juul Jørgensen, and Stefano Signore, who took over on sustainable energy and climate change. We will also see new faces at Power Africa and REEEP.
  3. Long live co-benefits: Nexus, co-benefits, dividendsproductive use… whatever you call them, lip service about focusing on the outcomes of distributed renewables is finally turning into action. Instead of talking about energy to the energy sector, we’re finally starting to talk to the beneficiaries about the impact of distributed renewables on healthcareagri-food, employment, education, connectivitycooking, etc. It’s marketing 101: tell your customer how you can serve them better. We just worked with IRENA & ILO to launch the Sustainable Energy Jobs Platform, the World Health Organization (WHO) and others launched the Health & Energy Platform of Action (HEPA). More is needed and more is coming.
  4. More sophisticated money: The sector’s growing maturity, and its more segmented and advanced supply chain mean that more targeted financial tools are needed to meet the next phase of growth. Mechanisms for de-risking and securitizing bundled portfolios will be key to leveraging larger pools of commercial and local capital. Based on initial work by the International Solar Alliance, the World Bank recently launched the Solar Risk Mitigation Initiative (SRMI) to mobilize $500 million in emerging economies. The African Development Bank meanwhile reformed its Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA) with a greater focus on Results-Based Finance (RBF), which commercial investors are strongly demanding. Because of the smaller ticket size of our sector, more focus is also being placed on portfolio aggregation and securitization. Unlocking local currency will also progress.
  5. Integrated electrification: Don’t forget policy and regulation. With more countries embracing mini-grids and home solar, government demand is growing for support on how to plan for the energy infrastructure of the future. This has spawned a growing community of practice working to help, including a huge army of consultants. Integrated electrification is a focus area of the new Global Commission to End Energy Poverty, and many others such as IRENA, the World BankWRI and SEforALL. Notably, DFID is finalizing a set of key principles for ensuring donor alignment vis-a-vis strategic energy planning. Additional focus is also emerging on the implementation gap that exists in putting plans into practice. Keep an eye out for emerging public-private partnership to bridge this gap, such as our Utilities 2.0 work in Uganda with Umeme, Konexa in Nigeria, and Tata Power in India.
  6. e-Mobility: We’ve been talking about this for a while, but is 2020 the year? With battery costs continuing to fall, and so much action on efficient electrical appliances happening around energy access, it’s not a stretch to say that electric two-wheelers and three-wheelers are just bigger consumer appliances that also stand to gain from the ruthless quest for innovation. Cool start-ups are looking into this area, and foundations and donors are taking a closer look as well, including how EVs can take advantage of mini-grids (and vice versa), and the role of transportation in agriculture.
  7. Going geospatial & digital: As discussed in a recent report, there is still enormous potential for digital technologies in emerging markets — big data and AI, smart meters, IoT, geospatial sensing and remote management. This is a critical element in continued reductions in operating expense of sector companies, and an area where decentralized private sector companies will push bigger utilities into the future. Geospatial tools are also becoming a serious input into planning.
  8. e-Cooking: This makes the list for the second year in a row. The arrival of the Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) program and a new $500 million clean cooking fund from the World Bank could be game changers, and work by Efficiency for AccessCLASP, the Clean Cooking Alliance and others will continue to push a new generation of products and business models.
  9. Adaptation and resilience: What is going to be the most resilient energy infrastructure of the future as natural disasters (floods, fires, drought, storms) and climate change amplify? We found out in late 2019 that distributed renewables don’t have the strongest emissions reduction story (according to GIZ and RLI its just 870 million tonnes of CO2e by 2030). But, their new study also concluded that distributed renewables not only make communities more resilient both socially and economically, but also are more resilient compared to grid infrastructure. Governments and utilities around the world are waking up to this, in Puerto Rico, in California, in Australia. Our sector’s contribution to adaptation needs to be moved to the front of the climate discussion, as it becomes more apparent that we will miss the Paris agreement goals.
  10. MPs getting renewable: Long under-utilized in the energy transition, parliamentarians are now emerging as another potential lever for accelerating access, thanks to the Global Renewables CongressClimate Parliament and others, as well as the devolution of more energy planning to local governments. In Kenya, for example, counties have been given much more authority, leading to innovation in districts where local government is strong and progressive. This bottom-up dynamic could bode well for faster access gains if properly leveraged.

Daimler Trucks experiment with integrating battery-electric trucks in large-scale fleet operations

Author:  Jim Stinson         Published: 3/11/2020              Utility Dive

Dive Brief:

  • Daimler Trucks North America LLC (DTNA) launched its Freightliner Customer Experience (CX) Fleet for its electric truck program. The fleet of all-electric trucks includes six heavy-duty Freightliner eCascadias and two medium-duty eM2-106 trucks.
  • The Freightliner CX fleet is part of DTNA’s ongoing co-creation initiative that engages customers in the development process by deploying commercial battery-electric trucks in real-world applications. At least 14 customers who collectively represent more than 150,000 of all Class 6-8 trucks on the road in the U.S. will help test the Freightliner CX Fleet, according to a March 3 news release.
  • DTNA said its CX Fleet adds to the 30-vehicle Freightliner Electric Innovation Fleet, which started operation in late 2018 to provide feedback and data on the integration of battery-electric trucks in large-scale fleet operations. The Freightliner Electric Innovation Fleet recently hit a milestone, surpassing 100,000 cumulative miles of operation, according to DTNA.

Dive Insight:

Roger Nielsen, DTNA CEO, said he is serious about providing battery-electric Class 6-8 trucks, which he said will one day replace diesel-powered trucks.

Last April, speaking at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in Long Beach, California, Nielsen declared DTNA was on the side of battery-electric trucks, eschewing hydrogen fuel cells, which create electric power and have zero emissions.

“The road to emissions-free transportation is going to be driven with battery-electric vehicles, ” Nielsen said on April 24. “I believe the future is electric.”

The problem is working out the kinks. As the industry found out with hybrid diesel-electric trucks, unforeseen mechanical consequences can pop up. Many fleet owners prefer to test the vehicles out before making a large purchase.

Almost a year after Nielsen’s proclamation, Richard Howard, the DTNA senior vice president of on-highway sales and marketing, said the testing done by real fleets will add continuous feedback that contributes to ongoing design and innovation of the trucks.

The news follows Nikola Corp.’s recent reverse merger with VectoIQ, a publicly traded acquisition company. The two agreed to create a company focused on the development of zero-emission trucks. The new company will be known as Nikola Corp. and is expected to remain NASDAQ-listed under the new ticker symbol “NKLA.” Nikola said it will accelerate production of battery-electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles in the Class 8 truck market and sell to fleets eager to produce zero emissions as they transport goods.

DTNA’s Freightliner eCascadia and eM2 are part of Daimler Trucks’ global electrified truck initiative, joining the all-electric Saf-T-Liner eC2 Jouley school bus, the Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp.’s MT50e and the FUSO eCanter in North America.

 

ABOUT EARTH’S NATURAL FORCE

Author: Allen Burriss          Published: 3/9/2020                Earth’s Natural Force

About ENF : https://enfrangers.org/

About Earth’s Natural Force

 The mission of Earth’s Natural Force (ENF) is to reach and teach our youth, at a very young age, about their responsibility to care for and protect the environment. Our goal is to heighten the consciousness of young people to take care of their neighborhoods, schools and communities.

We will accomplish the above objectives by encouraging our youth to stop littering, recycle trash and give them a clear understanding of how their positive actions can maintain and even improve their communities. We will also teach them how these good practices can positively affect their health and that of their fellow “Earth-Mates”. It is clear that our youth are the next line of defense against negative environmental changes, therefore, it is our goal to teach young people between the ages of 5-12, step-by-step approaches to maintaining clean neighborhoods, promoting clean air and water, and sharing the principles of collective participation with their schoolmates, friends and family.

We want our young people to understand they can be a force for good and they have the power to save the planet by being responsible citizens of the Earth. They are “Earth’s Natural Force!” Earth’s Natural Force (ENF) is dedicated to ensuring our youth are given every opportunity to thrive in their neighborhoods and communities, develop good habits that will help them maintain healthy bodies and minds and show them how their actions – or lack thereof – can positively or negatively affect their environment and those who share it with them.

BECOME AN ENF RANGER
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Virginia approves 100% clean energy legislation, pushing state toward 2.4 GW storage, RGGI

Author:  Matthew Bandy Bandyk        Published: 3/6/2020        Utility Dive Wikimedia Commons

UPDATE: March 6, 2020: The final version of the Clean Economy Act is headed to the governor’s desk, after the Virginia Senate pushed for a conference committee to advance the bill as the state’s legislative session comes to an end. The House passed it Thursday with a 51-45 vote, while the Senate approved it Friday morning, 22-17.

Dive Brief:

  • The Virginia Clean Economy Act, narrowly passed by both chambers of the state legislature, sets one of the largest energy storage targets in the country at 2.4 GW by 2035 and pushes state regulators to devise a carbon dioxide cap and trade program that complies with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
  • The act, which requires Virginia’s electric utilities and competitive suppliers to generate electricity from 100% renewable energy by 2050, passed on the same day that Dominion Energy, by far the state’s largest utility, announced its own commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • Other provisions of the legislation give regulators additional powers to block the construction of new power plants that emit carbon dioxide, a potentially significant change for a state that has attracted criticism for an alleged glut of natural gas-fired power plant construction in recent years.

Dive Insight:

Virginia’s Clean Economy Act codifies into law the goal of clean energy by 2050 that was previously outlined in an executive order from Gov. Ralph Northam, D, in September 2019. The House version of the bill passed with a vote of 52 in favor and 47 opposed, and the Senate version passed with 21 in favor and 19 opposed.

The close votes reflected a regional split, as reported by Virginia Mercury, with Republicans who represent rural parts of Virginia claiming the bill would increase costs for ratepayers. Costs related to the RGGI program have been particularly controversial. RGGI is a market-based program in which participating states, primarily in the Northeast, adhere to a carbon dioxide cap and trade carbon dioxide allowances.

In its 2018 integrated resource plan, Dominion had concluded that an earlier proposal to create a Virginia cap and trade program linked to RGGI would increase costs for Virginia customers by $530 million from 2020 to 2030 while not significantly lowering emissions. “The modeling indicates that Virginia joining or linking to RGGI will lower allowance prices, thereby lowering the cost of carbon compliance in other RGGI states subsidized, in part, by Virginia electricity customers,” the IRP stated.

The Clean Economy Act “directs the [State Air Pollution Control Board] to adopt regulations establishing a carbon dioxide cap and trade program to limit and reduce the total carbon dioxide emissions released by electric generation facilities, which regulations shall comply with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative model rule,” according to the texts of both versions.

Besides the RGGI provision, the bill takes additional steps to require carbon dioxide emissions reductions. It prevents the Virginia State Corporation Commission from approving “any investor-owned utility to own, operate, or construct any electric generating unit that emits carbon as a byproduct of combusting fuel to generate electricity” until the state legislature has had a chance to review a report from the Air Pollution Control Board. The bill also requires utilities and the commission to consider the social cost of carbon when reviewing the need for a new generation facility.

The legislation sets targets for both energy storage and offshore wind. The 2.4 GW deployment target for energy storage includes interim targets through 2035, requiring the State Corporation Commission to approve new energy storage projects. On offshore wind, the bill states that the commission should approve new offshore wind projects up to 5.2 GW in capacity through the end of 2034. Dominion has already proposed a 2.6 GW wind project off the Virginia coast for 2024.

In a letter published by the Washington Post, Food & Water Watch Southern Region Director Jorge Aguilar called the Virginia Clean Economy Act a “weak foundation for renewable energy transformation,” arguing that “the legislation mostly mirrors what utilities have already committed to.” Prior to the Feb. 11 announcement of net-zero emissions by 2050, Dominion had targeted an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050.

NGO Environment Virginia, however, praised the bill. “The Virginia Clean Economy Act incorporates best-practice policies with data-driven roadmaps that will put Virginia on an aggressive but practical path to curb emissions while protecting rate-payers,” the group said.

GM unveils 11 future EVs, new batteries and its plan to beat Tesla

Author: Jamie L. LaReau       Published:     3/04/2020    Detroit Free Press

General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra addresses the gathering Wednesday at an event detailing GM’s electric vehicle technologies and upcoming products at the Tech Center campus in Warren.

General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra addresses the gathering Wednesday at an event detailing GM’s electric vehicle technologies and upcoming products at the Tech Center campus in Warren. (Photo: Steve Fecht, Steve Fecht for General Motors)

General Motors wants to do better at telling the story of its electric vehicle development.

So GM leaders invited about 150 journalists to an “EV day” Wednesday, showing 11 future EVs in its Design Dome at the Warren Technical Center. GM did not allow any photographs of the vehicles or provide any to the media.

The upcoming GMC Hummer pickup hulked in one corner of the dome and the Cadillac Lyriq, a futuristic SUV, was shown across the aisle.

“We want to put everyone in an EV and we have what it takes to do it,” GM CEO Mary Barra said.

What it takes is technology that GM said it’s inventing to dominate other electric car companies such as Tesla.

For example, GM said it has developed new battery modules, called Ultium, that will reduce the cost to make the batteries and help consumers afford EVs. GM has devised a flexible global platform, too, that allows it to make a variety of powerful EVs to meet all customer needs. They will have better charging time and give more vehicle range than current EVs do.

The goal of all of this is to make sure the EVs are profitable for GM. Barra worked to assure investors the strategy will create new revenue.

Will solar work for low-income communities?

Author: Warren Leon       Published: 3/05/2020        Utility Dive

OPINION

RREAL    The following is a contributed article by Warren Leon, Executive Director at the Clean Energy States Alliance

There is increasing interest in solar PV projects that benefit low-and-moderate-income (LMI) households.

State governments, community groups, environmental justice advocates, philanthropic foundations, utilities and the solar industry have all embraced the concept of using solar technology to reduce economic inequality and to build wealth in LMI communities. Some players in the solar market have also sought to prevent a loss of public support for solar if it were to become perceived as benefiting upper-income residents at the expense of those less well off.

Because of the declining cost of solar and growing desire for a more inclusive clean energy economy, many efforts are underway to accelerate LMI solar adoption. But will those initiatives succeed? Can solar projects bring tangible economic assistance to LMI communities? This sometimes seem unlikely, because there are significant obstacles that need to be overcome, including:

  • LMI residents who rent homes and apartments can have difficulty benefiting financially from solar since they do not control their roofs.
  • LMI homeowners with below-average credit scores are often unable to qualify for PV system financing.
  • Most LMI households do not have sufficient tax liability to take advantage of the federal residential solar tax credit.
  • Federal housing assistance programs are structured in a way that can limit LMI households’ ability to save money with solar.

Overcoming obstacles

Attempts to expand LMI solar have sometimes shown that overcoming these obstacles is even harder than it might appear at first glance. For example, subscriptions to shared solar arrays (what the solar industry calls “community solar”) initially seemed to be an easy way to reach large numbers of LMI renters, but LMI participation in such programs has generally remained low. Special policies, incentives and consumer protection measures are required to boost participation. Moreover, energy equity advocates and community leaders in LMI communities have argued that a passive subscription to a large solar project in a distant location does not necessarily provide the solar visibility, local jobs and sense of community empowerment that LMI communities need.

There is also increasing awareness that typical solar financial arrangements will not work well for LMI households. People who purchase or contract for solar are highly likely to save money, but there is a small chance that a rare technology failure, a change to utility rate structures, or an unexpected electricity price swing could cause a financial loss. Well-to-do households can easily accept that modest financial risk, but LMI households have little ability to withstand a financial setback. Solar for LMI customers should therefore either provide guaranteed savings or allow customers to easily withdraw from the contract at any time. This often requires state or municipal governments to create special policies and incentives.

Successful strategies

Although the challenges to LMI solar adoption are great, some strategies have proven successful. The nonprofit Clean Energy States Alliance assembled and worked recently as part of a diverse team with representatives of Jackson State University, the Partnership for Southern Equity, PaulosAnalysis, the University of Michigan, The Nathan Cummings Foundation and The Solutions Project.

We examined what has been learned over the past few years about implementing solar in ways that provide meaningful benefits to LMI households and communities. Augmenting the team’s collective experience, we interviewed nearly 100 energy experts and community leaders from across the country. We gave special attention to the perspectives of leaders of frontline organizations in LMI communities, because their voices are often missing from solar policy discussions and we wanted to make sure that our findings would meet the needs of those communities.

The investigation identified specific programs and projects that can and should be widely replicated, including Connecticut Green Bank’s program for LMI single-family homeowners, the Sunset Park Solar cooperatively-owned solar project in Brooklyn, the Kresge Foundation’s credit enhancement guarantees for resilient power projects, and investment firm Sunwealth’s bundling of LMI and non-LMI projects into attractive investment pools. These and other successful programs have resulted in thousands of solar installations in LMI communities.

The resulting report, Solar with Justice: Strategies for Powering Up Under-Resourced Communities and Growing an Inclusive Solar Market, emphasizes that partnerships with trusted community organizations are crucial to success. Those organizations are well placed to know how to engage and communicate with the local community. Their involvement in collaborations with other stakeholders involved with LMI solar — from government agencies and philanthropic foundations to investors, solar advocates, utilities and the solar industry — leads to more equitable programs that are responsive to the needs of LMI communities and can help overcome the distrust that many residents of those communities feel towards utilities, energy companies and the solar industry. Although it takes time and financial resources for community organizations and other players in the solar market to work in partnership, it ultimately leads to greater efficiency and a reduced chance of program failure.

Community institution projects

Solar installations for community institutions deserve special attention. Because the projects are often highly visible, many people can see and learn about them, so they serve an important public education function. That makes it easier to develop additional solar projects. In addition, such projects create a sense of participation in the solar economy. When a church with 300 congregants installs solar panels on its roof, all 300 people benefit from it and feel that they are helping their community move towards clean energy. ‘

By reducing the energy costs for institutions that serve large numbers of people, solar can provide valuable economic assistance to the community. Given some of the challenges to developing residential solar installations that benefit renters and residents of HUD-supported housing, institutional projects can be an assured way to ensure that cost savings from solar remain in the community.

Our research led to many other recommendations that are specifically aimed at state governments, foundations, community organizations and the solar industry. Because the obstacles to LMI solar remain significant and the need for equitable solar remains great, it is important that all these stakeholders devote significant attention to LMI solar. Success will not be easy, but solar can work well for LMI communities.

Renewables, EV tax credits won’t include in Senate energy bill ‘unless we have a miracle on the floor

Author: Catherine Morehouse           Published: 3/05/2020          Utility Dive

Dive Brief:

  • Despite Democratic efforts, the renewable energy industry will likely not see a tax credit extension under the comprehensive Senate energy bill, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., told an audience of renewables groups at the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) policy forum on Wednesday.
  • Wyden on Tuesday filed an amendment that would extend tax credits for wind and solar, and expand their application to other clean energy technologies, but he expressed skepticism that the amendment could make it through the Republican-majority Senate. “Unless we have a miracle on the floor … we’re not going to win this round,” he said. “I wish I could come in and tell you otherwise.”
  • His skepticism came alongside comments from House members that provisions of the bill will need to change for it to receive support from the Democratic-majority chamber. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., told reporters that removing building code updates from the package, for example, “is a major, major problem” for its prospects in the House.

Many in the energy industry are excited to see the Senate pushing through a substantial energy legislative package, introduced last week by Chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Ranking Member Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

The legislation, which includes almost 50 bills introduced in 2019, many of which received bipartisan support, is Congress’ best bet to make a dent in federal clean energy policy under the Trump administration, according to some experts.

“This is harvesting the low-hanging fruit that is often discussed,” said Tonko. He said his support for the bill doesn’t mean he’s given up on more aggressive climate legislation, such as the CLEAN Future Act, which he introduced in draft form in January.

“I want to move our nation into a clean energy future as quickly as possible. That means being ready to enact major legislation at the earliest opportunity, and trying to pass achievable bills in the near term,” he said. “We know many of the new and big ideas [of the CLEAN Future Act] won’t be enacted by this Administration.”

But barriers in the House still remain, said Tonko, who serves on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and chairs the Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change. Amendments extending tax credits and updating the building code will be needed to secure his full support and likely the support of other House members, he said.

“I would think that there’s an ability to go forward in this session, but … it depends on how well it’s received in the House,” he told reporters.

Wyden’s tax extenders would expand electric vehicle tax credits and extend them to fuel cell vehicles; extend the investment tax credit and production tax credit for solar, wind and renewables; expand the ITC to include standalone storage, offshore wind and waste fuel; and extend credits and deductions for energy efficient homes and buildings.

But Wyden, Ranking Member on the Senate Finance Committee who led a taskforce focused on tax credit extenders in 2019, doesn’t see it getting in the package, despite its support in the House.

It’s “too soon” to tell if the exclusion of the buildings codes and tax credits will be a deal breaker for House committee members, said Tonko.

One barrier to including tax extensions in the bill is the fact that revenue measures have to begin in the House, “so adding the tax amendment … could kill the bill,” Chris Conlin, who serves as tax counsel to the Senate Finance Committee majority, said during the ACORE conference.

“Maybe there are procedural ways to get around that. But at the least, it would clog things up,” he said.

Deployment is the number one thing the renewable energy industry is concerned about and incentives are critical to deployment, according to renewable energy industry officials.

“We think it’s really critical at this point that any energy legislation emerging from Congress do more than promote research and development,” ACORE CEO Gregory Wetstone told Utility Dive. “Even productive research and development is not going to pay off for many years. Really, we’re looking for provisions that will incentivize the deployment technologies available today.”

The Senate voted 90-4 on Wednesday to begin debating the bill.

NYC cracks down on building efficiency with new energy code

Author:  Jason Plautz           Published: 3/2/2020    Utility Dive

Photo by Mike C. Valdivia on Unsplash. (N/A). “Mike C. Valdivia New York skyline photo” [Photograph]. Retrieved from https://unsplash.com/photos/kZokA2VTKn4.

Dive Brief:

  • New York City will require all new and existing buildings to meet stricter energy efficiency requirements under a new energy code approved by the city council and passed by Mayor Bill de Blasio last week. The 2020 NYC Energy Conservation Code is part of the city’s implementation of its Green New Deal.
  • Under the new code, builders will have to “improve the building thermal envelope​” with better walls and windows to limit heat loss; better seal the envelope to control air leakage; and insulate balconies and parapets. Buildings will also have to meet tougher energy efficiency requirements for heating and cooling systems, and lighting control.
  • Additionally, all one- and two-family homes will need infrastructure for future installation of electric vehicle chargers, and all buildings over 25,000 square feet will need whole building metering, which can help account for energy use and

    Dive Insight:

    Large buildings are the city’s greatest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, especially with an aging building stock that is less energy efficient. The city has increasingly targeted both new and existing buildings in its bid to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The sweeping Climate Mobilization Act that passed last spring set an ambitious goal of requiring all buildings over 25,000 square feet to cut climate emissions by 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, and in the fall the city selected nine facilities for “deep energy retrofits.”

    “New York City is leading the nation in our fight against global warming,” said de Blasio in a statement. “Our new energy code will ensure that buildings —​ our city’s biggest polluters —​ are held to the highest standard of sustainability and efficiency.”

    The new energy code is part of a suite of construction rules that is being updated by the Department of Buildings. It uses the 2020 New York State Energy Conservation Construction Code and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s NYStretch Energy Code as a floor, but has tougher efficiency requirements.

    It also comes as cities across the country are taking a closer look at rules to clean up their buildings. Boston is requiring that all new cities have a carbon-neutral design, and other governments have updated their own codes to meet carbon reduction goals. Berkeley, CA was the first city to ban natural gas hookups for new low-rise residential buildings in July 2019, and other cities like  Brookline, MA​ have followed suit. Seattle is also considering its own ban.

    Opponents to such a ban have included the Arizona legislature — backed by major utilities and homebuyers group — which is set to preempt local buildings from banning natural gas infrastructure in new buildings.

    De Blasio announced earlier this month that New York would aim to phase out the use of natural gas and heating oil by 2040, but is not expected to move a ban similar to Berkeley’s, reports S&P Global.

    lead to more reductions.

 

Comprehensive Senate energy bill draws industry, bipartisan support, but lags on tax credits, efficiency

Author: Catherine Morehouse    Published: 3/3/2020      Utility Dive

The bill would include 17 demonstration projects for advanced nuclear, carbon capture, long duration storage and geothermal, moving away from the Trump administration’s more research-focused funding.

Flickr; Tim Evanson

A comprehensive Senate energy package has a better chance than most energy bills of getting through Congress, according to some policy watchers. But opposition from groups opposed to its inclusion of  fossil fuels and exclusion of tax credits for renewables and electric vehicles may present challenges.

The bill’s text was unveiled Thursday by Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Chair Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and ranking member Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. It includes 555 pages that combine almost 50 energy bills reported by the Senate in 2019, and address everything from nuclear energy to carbon capture to renewables.

The comprehensive bill presents critical federal aid to a power sector faced with the Herculean task of mid-century decarbonization, according to supporters. And its bipartisan backing presents a rare opportunity to modernize federal energy policy, which hasn’t been updated in such a broad manner since the Energy Independence and Security Act was passed in 2007.

The bill’s prospects in the House appear positive as well, but there are reservations.

Bipartisan overlap on policies around energy storage, carbon capture, nuclear and renewables already exists in the House, staff from the House Science, Space and Technology Committees and Senate ENR said during a Feb. 27 webinar hosted by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES).

“There’s a strong foundation to work with in terms of getting something to the house floor and then to the president’s desk,” Brad Townsend, managing director for strategic initiatives at C2ES, told Utility Dive.

But critics note that its clean energy and climate policies don’t go nearly far enough, and provisions that would expand mining could undermine any environmental progress the bill might otherwise make. Environmental and energy efficiency groups have been the biggest opponents.

“This bill includes a number of small bore proposals, some productive and some detrimental. It also incorporates some egregious non starters such as a provision to vastly expand the permitting of destructive mining operations, as well as an expansion of fracked gas exports,” Sierra Club Legislative Director Melinda Pierce said in a statement.

Bringing elusive dispatchable, zero-carbon resources to scale

The focus on getting zero-emission, dispatchable technologies to scale is one of the most critical issues facing the power sector, utility executives have noted. As the sector embraces increasingly ambitious carbon-free electricity goals, it is banking on one or more of those potential technologies reaching commercial scale, whether that be hydrogen, advanced nuclear, carbon capture, long-duration energy storage or a combination of them all.

“What we’re hearing over and over from utilities is that …. they don’t have the technologies they need to get all the way to zero [carbon]. And so in our view, this bill really takes on that challenge,” Rich Powell, executive director of conservative clean energy group ClearPath Action, told reporters during a Monday press call on the bill.

The Trump Administration has traditionally shied away from demonstration projects, a strategy that stops short of funding pilots under the belief that deployment should be left to the private sector. But this bill moves away from that approach and the idea that the federal government can spur rapid decarbonization through research funding alone.

The legislative package would call for deploying two new nuclear reactors by 2025 and another by 2035; five carbon capture projects by 2025, split between coal and natural gas to ensure at least two for each fuel; five grid-scale storage projects that include different technologies by 2025; and four geographically diverse geothermal projects by 2025.

“There’s a real … focus on demonstration projects, which … really stands out as both really impactful and also sort of novel relative to where the conversation has been in the last few years,” said Townsend.

“Expecting the private sector to be able to take really big risks on [clean energy] technologies, especially given the uncertainty in the long-term policy environment … is not really realistic and certainly not in line with what we have heard from companies,” he said.

It is important for the United States to be a leader in advanced nuclear technology, particularly as China and Russia are “surging ahead” in the advanced and small reactor space, Powell said. The bill would also address smaller barriers to carbon capture and geothermal by including a focus on natural gas power plant retrofits, and expanding the geographic footprint of geothermal pilots eastward.

“They could hugely expand the footprint of geothermal so you can start thinking about doing a lot of this east of the Mississippi, which has not been traditionally where those [projects] are located,” said Powell. That “could bring renewable geothermal energy to a lot of the parts of the country where a lot of other renewable resources are a little challenged.”

Including technologies like nuclear and leaving room for natural gas and coal under the promise of carbon capture has allowed the bill to garner support from a wide range of industry groups including the Nuclear Energy Institute, coal advocacy group America’s Power, the American Gas Association and Edison Electric Institute.

“We believe the most realistic way to address greenhouse gas … emissions is through a technology-centric strategy. To be successful, such a strategy must be based on sustained investments, as well as allow adequate time to develop and deploy those technologies. The American Energy Innovation Act … is consistent with this strategy because it promotes innovative and transformational technologies like carbon capture, utilization and sequestration,” America’s Power CEO Michelle Bloodworth told Utility Dive in an email.

Bill barriers

Solar and energy storage groups expressed more tentative support. Though those groups support a lot of the bill’s efforts, they’d like to see a tax credit added for solar, storage and electric vehicles.

“We do think additional legislative work is needed on tax and climate policy, among other energy-related issues,” Erin Duncan, vice president of congressional affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association, said in an emailed statement. But the group appreciates the bill’s “support for short-, mid- and long-term innovation” in the solar industry, as well as its focus on cybersecurity, grid security and energy storage, she added.

The Energy Storage Association similarly expressed support for certain aspects of the bill such as the inclusion of the Better Energy Storage Technology Act, which encourages grid-scale storage deployment, but called for a tax credit addition for the resource.

“In order to realize a modernized, clean grid, it is critical that the Senate take immediate action to provide commensurate​ incentives for energy storage, as it has with other clean energy technologies. Enacting a standalone energy storage tax credit would benefit all stakeholders,” the group said in a statement.

The American Wind Energy Association did not respond to requests for comment.

But though the tax credits are an important piece of decarbonization legislation, “this package has a lot of really important pieces in it,” said Townsend. “We certainly don’t view the particular focus of this legislation as an impediment or a reason not to take up what we think is a really good bill.”

Environmental and energy efficiency groups have been even more critical, however.

Though the Natural Resources Defense Council supports many aspects of the bill, the package “would undermine bedrock environmental laws, weaken public lands protections and ramp up dirty energy fueling climate change. … That’s unacceptable,” said Alexandra Adams, senior director of federal affairs at NRDC.

“Innovation and R&D of course have a role, but what is urgently needed right now goes beyond research that will have payoffs far down the road,” said Sierra Club’s Pierce. “We need action on deploying the proven clean energy technologies that are reducing emissions today. The most direct way to do that would be advancing clean energy tax incentives for technologies including solar, on and off-shore wind, energy storage, energy efficiency and electric vehicles.”

Of additional concern is the fact that the bill eliminates a provision from a bipartisan efficiency bill that would have updated building efficiency codes.

Those codes “would drive enormous efficiency gains in new homes across the country, making future housing stock more affordable and more sustainable,” Ben Evans, vice president for the Alliance to Save Energy, said in a statement. “That’s a big missed opportunity, and we will continue working with our Republican and Democratic supporters to get these provisions added back to the bill.”

“It’s clear that this package is not everything we would need to deal with climate goals, but it’s a really substantial foundation upon which to build, and a foundation that also is bipartisan,” C2ES President Bob Perciasepe told reporters during the Monday webinar.