The US Department of Energy (DOE), via its Loan Programs Office (LPO), has officially announced the completion of a $3bn partial loan guarantee to Sunnova Energy’s Project Hestia. This initiative aims to broaden the accessibility of distributed energy resources (DERs), encompassing rooftop solar panels, battery storage solutions, and consumer-oriented virtual power plant (VPP) software, to a greater number of American homeowners. Additionally, it is expected to generate more than 3,400 well-compensated, high-quality job opportunities across the US.

This endeavour underscores US President Biden’s commitment to enhancing the availability of cost-effective renewable energy throughout the nation, with the overarching goals of achieving a carbon-neutral grid by 2035 and fostering a net-zero emissions economy by 2050.

This declaration represents the most substantial pledge ever extended by the Federal Government to solar power and marks the US Department of Energy’s inaugural loan guarantee for a Virtual Power Plant (VPP).

President Biden’s ‘Investing in America’ initiative is fast-tracking the adoption of technologies like solar power and offering support for innovative climate solutions. This initiative is not only bolstering the US economy but also presenting a mutually beneficial opportunity for communities to thrive while addressing pressing environmental concerns.

The Loan Programs Office (LPO) collaborates closely with all borrowers to foster the creation of well-compensated jobs adhering to robust labour standards throughout the various phases, including construction, operations, and the duration of the loan. Furthermore, it emphasises the implementation of a robust Community Benefits Plan, delineating how proposed projects will actively support community and workforce engagement, invest in the American workforce, advance energy and environmental justice, promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, and ensure benefits reach disadvantaged communities in alignment with the President’s Justice40 Initiative.

Project Hestia is set to extend loans for clean energy systems to approximately 75,000 to 115,000 homeowners across the US, encompassing Puerto Rico. This initiative is particularly beneficial to disadvantaged communities grappling with elevated energy costs, as it offers them access to clean energy resources that would otherwise be challenging to obtain. Over the next quarter-century, this project, amounting to approximately 568MW, will include rooftop solar installations, residential battery systems, and intelligent software aimed at curbing energy wastage. It is anticipated to result in the avoidance of an estimated 7.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions—roughly equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of 1.5 million vehicles traversing the nation’s roads.

Back in April, the Loan Programs Office (LPO) made an initial conditional commitment for a loan supporting Sunnova’s Project Hestia. This groundbreaking project is designed to provide homeowners with cutting-edge software that complements their solar energy and battery systems while also promoting demand flexibility. This innovative software will empower customers by giving them insights into their household’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. It enables customers to reduce their electricity consumption or even contribute excess electricity to the grid in markets that permit such contributions, particularly during times when the grid is under stress. The introduction of demand flexibility not only enhances grid reliability but also has the potential to lower energy costs for consumers, including those residing in energy-burdened communities.

The strategic combination of aggregated Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) with intelligent software creates a potent collective tool, with Virtual Power Plants (VPPs) emerging as a key solution for delivering cost-effective power, supporting grid stability, and advancing decarbonisation efforts in an increasingly electrified world. This project places a specific emphasis on households in disadvantaged communities across the US and Puerto Rico. It is noteworthy that at least 20% of the loans will be extended to customers with credit scores of 680 FICO or less, and up to 20% of Project Hestia loans will benefit homeowners in Puerto Rico.