Powering and Empowering Baltimore’s Communities
A common refrain echoing across the country this election season is that too many communities are left out and left behind. Baltimore too has neighborhoods that are struggling to gain access to good-paying jobs and economic opportunity.
The deep-seated and persistent poverty experienced by far too many young people like Freddie Gray was one of the catalysts for last year’s unrest. In response, leaders at the local, state and federal levels have committed to lifting up our communities with new job training, education and economic development programs. While no single solution can fully reverse decades of underinvestment in parts of Baltimore and other urban communities across the country, there are ways we can create more jobs and improve the quality of life for those most in need.
Last month, I was proud to help lead one of these new efforts. A partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy, the Maryland Clean Energy Center and the City of Baltimore will expand access to solar energy for low-income homeowners and renters. In addition, it will provide job training to unemployed and underemployed workers in the city, giving them the skills necessary to become solar installation technicians in the renewable energy industry.
The program is a win-win-win for the city. It will improve home weatherization and reduce utility bills for families that need it most, it will open up new job opportunities for Baltimoreans in a high-growth, well-paying field and it will help expand the city’s overall clean energy capacity – improving our environment and public health. As part of the Obama Administration’s new Clean Energy Savings for All Americans Initiative, the Department of Energy is providing technical assistance that will help the city to develop sustainable financing for this effort. The Department, working with city leaders, is pulling together the private sector, nonprofits, major institutions within the city and workforce-development and energy-sector experts to create a framework that will uniquely suit Baltimore and help make it a solar energy hub.
Recently, many of our partners gathered at the home of Theresa Jones on Brendan Avenue to kick-off this new program and witness a solar installation firsthand. While the acceleration of solar technology has significantly reduced installation costs for consumers, access to solar energy remains out of reach for many homeowners like Ms. Jones, who cannot afford the upfront costs and do not have a high-enough credit rating to secure a loan. That’s where programs like this new solar partnership come in, creating new financing models that allow more households to install solar panels.
This new program is one of many great examples where local, state and federal partners are coming together to improve job prospects in Baltimore’s underserved communities. Moving forward, we need to put more programs in place like this one and continue looking for ways to bring well-paying jobs and economic opportunities to Baltimore.
Congressman John P. Sarbanes
Maryland's Third Congressional District