Building an Inclusive Solar Industry
Solar businesses join the Maryland NAACP, Morgan State University, and Bowie State University to build bridges between the clean energy sector and communities of color
On August 19th, 2020, business leaders, public officials, and local advocates will team up for a webinar focused on one goal: develop a stronger relationship between the solar industry and men and women of color.
The “Maryland Solar Equity Initiative” is aimed at addressing a diversity gap in the solar industry. It is spearheaded by the local Chapters of the NAACP, state solar trade association (MDV-SEIA), Morgan State University, Bowie State University, HBCU Community Development Action Coalition, and nonprofits GRID Alternatives and Solar United Neighbors.
The launch comes at a poignant time: two coal facilities in Prince George’s County have announced their closure. The closure was a victory for environmental advocates, but highlights that some in the energy sector will soon need to find a new career.
The Solar Equity Initiative will address both of those issues on a webinar this Wednesday. Advocates will explore the connections between environmental justice and renewable energy, how households can ease energy burdens through solar power, and different types of careers in the solar sector.
“As job losses started during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maryland NAACP sprung into action,” recalls the organization’s Environmental and Climate Justice Co-Chair Staci Hartwell, “we want to place unemployed or underemployed Marylanders into jobs that can place value back to vulnerable communities. As many households are struggling to afford electricity bills, solar energy can alleviate high energy burdens, and bring living wage careers to hundreds of Marylanders. This is a win-win-win.”
Despite the opportunities in the solar sector, the industry has struggled to attract employees of color. “Right now, the Maryland solar industry is mostly white, and mostly male,” laments David Murray, MDV-SEIA’s Executive Director. “We hope the Solar Equity Initiative will help solar companies build lasting partnerships with leading HBCUs like Morgan State and Bowie State, as well as create a more inclusive industry as a whole.”
Many nonprofit organizations are leading this effort by creating workforce development programs, focused on training people from underrepresented communities in solar installation and sales. GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic not only provides worker training programs, but solar installations on homes serving low to moderate income families in the region. GRID Alternatives’ Alexandra Wyatt sees the Solar Equity Initiative as one example of how installers can develop strong relationships with communities of color.
“By being intentional about who we hire andor who we reach out to, we create a stronger solar sector in the long run. This is how we see the future of our industry.”
Maryland D.C. Virginia Solar Energy Industry Association (MDV-SEIA) is the second-largest state affiliate of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) with over 160 member organizations, representing over 10,000 solar jobs in the region. Through direct advocacy, policy formation, regulatory intervention and market representation, MDV-SEIA strives to develop and implement strong solar policies to ensure continued market formation for all solar segments in this region and beyond.
Founded in 1909 in response to the ongoing violence against Black people around the country, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is the largest and most pre-eminent civil rights organization in the nation. We have over 2,200 units and branches across the nation, along with well over 2 million activists. Our mission is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.
ABOUT GRID Mid-Atlantic:
GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic is an affiliate of GRID Alternatives, a national leader in making clean, affordable solar power and solar jobs accessible to low-income communities and communities of color. Using a unique, people-first model, GRID Mid-Atlantic develops and implements solar projects that serve qualifying households and affordable housing providers, while providing hands-on job training. GRID Mid-Atlantic has installed more than 300 solar systems to-date and helped households and housing providers save over $8.9 million in lifetime electricity costs while training more than 900 people.
David Murray, Executive Director
MD-DC-VA Solar Energy Industry Association
Staci Hartwell, Environmental and Climate Justice Co-Chair