GRID Alternatives

Energy Equity for Underserved Communities

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

For generations, fossil fuel power has disproportionately impacted the health and well-being of low-income communities, particularly communities of color and indigenous communities. The growth of solar technology provides a tremendous opportunity to address some of the greatest challenges faced by lower-income communities: the high cost of housing, unemployment, and pollution. Over the next five years, GRID Alternatives aims to introduce and scale our model within new regions across the U.S. and internationally, using our solar installation, policy development and workforce development programs to create a variety of entry points into communities facing energy access challenges. Our goal is to provide 100,000 low-income people with $1 billion in direct, long-term economic and environmental benefits from renewable energy projects. Additionally, we aim to provide 2 million low-income people with access to substantial benefits from renewable energy through GRID’s policy and program development work.

Problem Statement

For generations, fossil fuel power has disproportionately impacted the health and well-being of low-income communities, particularly communities of color and indigenous communities. Emissions from power plants sited in these communities contribute to high rates of asthma and cancer, and the presence of heavy industry contributes to a cycle of poverty and public disinvestment in neighborhoods that can least afford it. These same energy sources are a major contributor to climate change. Pre-existing vulnerabilities mean that low-income families are impacted more by climate change-related natural disasters and extreme weather, yet have been largely left out of the conversation around solutions, reinforcing economic and environmental injustice.GRID is working to address the fact that the low-income solar market has been largely overlooked by the for-profit solar industry, even though 42% of U.S. residential rooftop solar potential, totaling 329 gigawatts (GW), has been identified on the dwellings of low-income households. There is tremendous potential to leverage this market to achieve direct economic benefits today for frontline communities that most stand to benefit from energy savings and job opportunities. However, this will require market and policy innovations, with a focus on removing the barriers low-income communities and communities of color traditionally face in accessing renewable energy while providing direct investments for solar deployment at scale. The status quo of energy production, where just a few hold the energy resources, needs to be rethought. Through solar and other clean energy technologies we have the opportunity to – literally – bring power to the people.

Solution Overview

GRID Alternatives proposes to rapidly expand our model to increase equitable access to renewable energy in low-income communities and communities of color, while making meaningful contributions to climate change mitigation. By prioritizing equity as a driver for the growth of renewable energy, we can build a just energy system that gives all communities the opportunity to participate not just as consumers but as producers and owners. We can enable low-income families to invest in their own future rather than in rising and volatile energy bills, create good career opportunities that are localized for the greatest impact, and invest in communities to build shared wealth.Over the next five years, GRID aims to introduce and scale our model within new regions across the U.S. and internationally, using our solar installation, policy development and workforce development programs to create a variety of entry points into communities facing energy access challenges. Our goal is to provide 100,000 low-income people with $1 billion in direct, long-term economic benefits from renewable energy projects. Additionally, we aim to provide 2 million low-income people with access to substantial benefits from renewable energy through GRID’s policy and program development work. We will measure our progress against these target outcomes, as well as the total megawatts of solar installed and associated greenhouse gas emissions reduced. Our long-term vision is that communities on the frontlines of climate change can readily access services from GRID’s network, through local affiliates that are accountable to and led by these communities.

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Project Funders

  • Anonymous Fund of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation 2018 - 2020
  • The JPB Foundation 2017 - 2020
  • Wells Fargo Foundation 2016 - 2021

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