Atlanta’s new mayor should deploy solar to address climate and housing crisis

Environmental group calls for action
For Immediate Release

ATLANTA–Environment Georgia Research & Policy Center is calling on new Atlanta mayor Andre Dickens to ramp up the amount of solar installed on affordable housing developments across the city. As part of the call, the group released a fact sheet that includes case studies on how installing solar on affordable housing would reduce pollution, help Atlanta meet its climate goals and offer tens of thousands of dollars in savings over the lifetime of the system.

“From a 100% clean energy commitment to a bold affordable housing goal, Atlanta has an impressive vision of the future – but we need to build on it,” said Jennette Gayer, Director of Environment Georgia Research & Policy Center. “To achieve 100% clean energy and distribute its benefits among all Atlantans, we can and must incorporate solar PV arrays and aggressive energy efficiency into affordable housing moving forward.”

For its fact sheet, Environment Georgia Research & Policy Center modeled solar installations on affordable housing projects that have been recently rehabilitated or preserved as affordable housing under the One Atlanta plan. On every building reviewed, the solar paid for itself and captured savings over the lifetime of a solar. For example, one solar project on a low-rise affordable housing complex in West Atlanta with 200 units could have netted nearly $70,000 in profit through electricity it contributed back to the grid over 25 years. With the right policies or technological innovations those savings could be directly delivered to residents.

“Atlantans should not have to take out a payday loan to pay their energy bills but that is a sad reality in our city," said Tish Naghise, the new co-chair of Atlanta Climate Reality Project Chapter. "More solar, with the right policies, could help lower energy bills and fight our climate crisis."

The fact sheet also includes five policy recommendations  the city should embrace to ensure more solar on affordable housing. They include the need for smart state policies such as net metering and virtual net metering that could help fully capture the economic benefits of solar in Atlanta. Net metering would require utilities to provide fair compensation for the excess energy solar arrays send back to the grid while virtual net metering would allow a large array on a multi-unit building to be credited to multiple energy users.

"Solar on affordable housing is the 'holy grail' of green and resilient affordable housing development. It underscores the important ideal of realizing economic and environmental justice through safe and affordable housing.” said John Travis Marshall with Georgia State University’s Urban Studies Institute. “Incorporating solar presents challenges for affordable housing developers already cobbling together many scarce sources of funding to pay for desperately needed housing units.  If Mayor Dickens and his team can make solar a reality, it would be a huge step for Atlanta's leadership toward achieving greater equity and sustainability."

According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, Metro Atlanta has the fourth-highest energy burden—the percentage of household income that is spent on energy bills—in the country, and Georgia as a state has the fourth highest energy bills in the nation.

“The bottom line is that everyone in Atlanta should benefit from the cost savings and environmental benefits solar can bring,” Gayer said. “We look forward to working with Mayor Dickens to help achieve Atlanta’s bold clean energy and housing visions and bring solar to all.”