Biden marks Earth Day with $7bn ‘solar for all’ investment amid week of climate action

<span>The deputy administrator of the EPA said the investment will ‘generate more than $8bn in savings on electric bills for the overburdened households’.</span><span>Photograph: Sandy Huffaker/Bloomberg via Getty Images</span>
The deputy administrator of the EPA said the investment will ‘generate more than $8bn in savings on electric bills for the overburdened households’.Photograph: Sandy Huffaker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Joe Biden marked Monday’s Earth Day by announcing a $7bn investment in solar energy projects nationwide, focusing on disadvantaged communities, and unveiling a week-long series of what the White House say will be “historic climate actions”.

Related: Biden administration moves to restrict oil and gas leases on 13m acres in Alaska

The president was speaking at Prince William Forest Park, in Triangle, Virginia, touting his environmental record and unveiling measures to tackle the climate crisis and increase access to, and lower costs of, clean energy.

The centerpiece was the announcement of $7bn in grants through the Environmental Protection Agency’s “solar for all” program, funded by last year’s $369bn Inflation Reduction Act, and which Biden said will benefit hundreds of thousands of mostly low-income families who currently spend up to 30% of their income on energy.

“These awards across the country [are to] states, territories, tribal governments, municipalities and non-profits to develop programs to enable low income and disadvantaged communities to benefit from residential solar power. And it’s a big deal,” he said.

“Solar for all program means 900,000 households will have solar on the rooftops for the first time and soon, millions of families will save over $400 a year on utility bills.”

The EPA has calculated that the investment, will be distributed through grants to 60 applicant organizations nationwide, will generate $8bn in household electricity bill savings over the life of the program.

Projects funded by the solar for all program will create 200,000 jobs, Biden said, and advance his Justice40 initiative, in which at least 40% of the benefits of investments in federal climate clean energy, and affordable and sustainable housing projects, are directed to communities “marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution”.

Biden also announced a new website to encourage citizens to join the American Climate Corps, a volunteer government organization modeled on former president Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s much-vaunted Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s.

The site,, aims to initially fill about 2,000 positions across 36 states, Washington DC and Puerto Rico, hosted by organizations working on clean energy, conservation and climate resilience projects. Ultimately the corps will employ more than 20,000 young people, the White House says.

Aimed mainly at young people, the administration said in a press release that the scheme’s objective was “to make it easy for any American to find work tackling the climate crisis while gaining the skills necessary for the clean energy and climate resilience workforce of the future”.

“Today is a historic day and a landmark achievement,” said the Democratic New York representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who spoke shortly before Biden took the stage.

“[It] serves as a reminder of the power of organizing, of what we can accomplish when young people, climate advocates, labor organizers and working people come together to demand the future we all deserve.”

Biden was also joined by the independent Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, one of the architects of the inflation act, who said the climate crisis was an “existential threat”.

“Climate change is real, climate change through drought, floods, forest fires, heatwaves and extreme weather disturbances is already causing massive devastation for our country and the entire world,” Sanders said.

“If anyone tells you climate change is a hoax, have them talk to farmers whose crop production is dwindling, have them talk to firefighters who risk their lives fighting fires with more severity and size than we’ve ever seen.”

Today’s announcements follow climate measures advanced by Biden officials last week, which included restricting oil and gas leases on 13m acres in Alaska, and finalizing a federal land management rule that makes conservation an equal priority to “harmful” private industry activities such as oil drilling at government-owned assets.

Biden has been trying to shore up his support among younger, climate-savvy voters who have been disappointed with the administration’s approval last year of oil and gas developments including the huge Willow project in Alaska. Advocates have also been putting pressure on Biden to declare a climate emergency.

He said Republicans posed a threat to climate reforms he had initiated, such as rejoining the Paris agreement that Donald Trump withdrew from.

“Despite the overwhelming devastation in red and blue states, there are still those who deny climate is in crisis,” he said. “My Maga Republican friends don’t seem to think it’s in crisis, they want to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act that provides the funding for a vast majority of these projects, and roll back protections for clean air and clean water.

“Anyone in or out of government who willfully denies the impacts of climate change is condemning the American people to a very dangerous future, and the world, I might add.”

Biden’s Virginia trip was the first of a packed Earth Week itinerary of visits nationwide by administration officials, including the transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, and the energy secretary, Jennifer Granholm, that officials insist will “build a stronger, healthier future for all”.

According to the White House, Tuesday’s theme will be clean water for all communities; Wednesday will focus on accelerating the US’s clean transportation future; Thursday will focus on steps to cut pollution from the power sector and strengthen the US electricity grid; and Friday will see measures to promote cleaner air and healthier schools.

Climate activist groups welcomed Biden’s solar energy announcement.

“Solar for all is exactly the type of investment the country needs to reimagine our clean energy future,” Jean Su, energy justice program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

“Broad community-based solar is our brightest hope for protecting people and our climate from the scourge of fossil fuels. These targeted investments mean low-income families get clean energy that is affordable, resilient and protects our ecosystems. It’s great to see President Biden jumpstart this landmark program.”