Press Release

Opportunities for clean energy development in Appalachia from Inflation Reduction Act and other federal investments highlighted during White House event

February 29, 2024

Dan Radmacher, Media Specialist, (540) 798-6683,

Washington, D.C. — In an event highlighting investments secured through the American Rescue Plan Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act in Tennessee, West Virginia and Kentucky, Appalachian Solar Finance Fund Director Autumn Long discussed how the fund’s work and impact have been amplified by federal investment in Central Appalachian states.

“Federal legislation such as the Inflation Reduction Act and American Rescue Plan has greatly expanded our ability to help local communities access the benefits of solar energy and create jobs in the expanding renewable energy field,” said Long, a staff member with Appalachian Voices. “New solar projects on community anchor institutions like Ironworkers Local 549 in Wheeling, West Virginia, Middlesboro Community Center in Middlesboro, Kentucky, and Faith Lutheran Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, create lasting economic impacts, new jobs and local resilience in communities hardest hit by the decline in the region’s coal economy.”

The White House event, “Communities in Action: Building a Better Tennessee, West Virginia and Kentucky,” brought local officials and community leaders together to discuss how recent federal investments have created opportunities to improve the lives of residents in states that have long been under-resourced and underserved, as well as the challenges these communities have faced in accessing these resources. Long was among those invited.

The Appalachian Solar Finance Fund is an initiative designed to accelerate solar development and economic growth in coal-impacted communities of Central Appalachia. The SFF provides competitive subgrant awards and technical assistance and coordinates credit enhancements and repayable financing for solar projects on nonprofit and public buildings, and provides technical assistance and financing support for key commercial businesses that serve as anchor institutions in local communities.

Since it was established in October 2021 with a $1.5 million award from the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER Initiative, the fund has helped public school systems and libraries, municipal governments, healthcare facilities, faith institutions, community nonprofits and local businesses leverage private and public investment for solar installations that will result in 6.4 megawatts of new electricity generation while saving $25 million in lifetime energy costs for these local institutions.

The SFF’s projects have already led to the direct creation of 20 new local jobs in the region’s solar industry. These projects will directly retain an additional 104 solar jobs and support 116 additional local jobs across 42 coal-impacted communities. Appalachian Voices is the fiscal sponsor of the SFF and oversees its core project team.

In September 2022, the SFF was awarded $1.3 million through the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge, a program funded by the American Rescue Plan Act. This funding comes as part of a $62.8 million award to the Appalachian Climate Technologies (ACT Now) Coalition’s RePower Appalachia Initiative, of which the SFF is a member. The ACT Now Coalition is using this award to create a hub of clean energy and green economy jobs in 21 economically distressed and coal-impacted counties in southern West Virginia.

By extending the solar investment tax credit, creating an elective payment mechanism for tax-exempt entities, and providing new tax credits that make solar projects more affordable in low-income communities and places impacted by coal, oil, gas and power plants, the Inflation Reduction Act has made more renewable energy projects possible in Appalachia.

Though recent federal investments offer significant opportunities for solar and renewable energy in the region and progress is being made, many challenges remain for Appalachian communities recovering from the decline of coal and transitioning to clean energy. For example, in Tennessee, communities are largely dependent on the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s largest public utility, to ensure they can access clean resources available through new federal legislation as most power in the state is supplied by TVA.

TVA is in the midst of its long-term energy planning process. This presents an opportunity for TVA to leverage the resources provided in the IRA and BIL to become a national leader in the clean energy transition and ensure communities through the entire Tennessee Valley benefit. However, the utility has not taken advantage of IRA incentives thus far, and due to a lack of transparency in its long-term planning process, it is not yet clear to what extent it intends to.

The appetite for federal investments in renewable energy is strong in Tennessee. Applicants in the Volunteer State have requested more than $630 million for clean energy in rural Tennessee via the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program, Powering Affordable Clean Energy Program and Empowering Rural America Program, all of which were created or boosted by the IRA .

“Rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities in Tennessee are applying for federal dollars for clean energy and showing strong interest in building a modern and more reliable power grid in the communities they serve,” said Director of Public Power Campaigns Bri Knisley. “These programs are vital for keeping the lights on and making sure rural and low-income communities aren’t left behind.”


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