Use money to upgrade,
The billions of dollars in federal aid coming this year to Virginia offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fix crumbling school infrastructure, lock in decades of energy savings for local taxpayers and take a giant step forward in our transition to a zero-carbon economy. Targeting some of the money specifically to high-efficiency heating and air conditioning retrofits in schools serving low-income children will improve air quality, which has been shown to affect student health and performance. Modern electric heating and cooling units also are light-years more efficient than the old units they will replace, producing energy savings for school districts well into the future.
We also should target funding to replace aging roofs on these schools, making them solar-ready. Today in Virginia, schools can access no-money-down financing for solar panels that save money from day one, if their roofs are sound. Coupled with other building improvements and high-efficiency electric HVAC systems, schools even can attain net-zero-energy status, generating as much energy as they use and making the buildings healthier places for children.