The sun shines on everyone, and the benefits of solar energy can too. Look at the synergies of community-supportive/community-supporting solar, how this can spread. Solar can create jobs, clean the air, and replace fossil fuel. As Dr. Martin Luther King said: “We refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.”
The NAACP is launching a civil rights economic and environmental justice initiative to connect 30+ communities of color and low income communities across the nation with solar energy infrastructure for homes and community centers, as well as skills training for solar jobs, all supported by strengthened solar equity policies. This will provide solar job skills training, install solar panels on households and community centers, and strengthen equity in solar access policies. Partners supporting this national initiative include GRID Alternatives, Solar Energy Industries Association, Sunrun, United Methodist Women, Vote Solar, and others. The Solar Equity Initiative will advance the aims of multiple NAACP civil rights initiatives: Environmental and Climate Justice, Economic Development, Labor, Education, Health and Criminal Justice.
Installing solar on community buildings will lower the energy bills and strengthen the budgets for those service-providers. Any non-profit can take this up, and the funds raised can be tax-deductible. Profit-minded owners of commercial buildings do this with tax credits, churches can do this with donations that are tax-deductible.
The NAACP kicking off this initiative at the Jenesse Center in Los Angeles will provide lifetime financial savings to that service organization estimated at $48,825. These savings will enable Jenesse to infuse more funds into its life-saving services. Similar environmental and economic savings will be replicated with installations by this initiative, and others where communities combine social equity and clean energy.
Communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately impacted by pollution-emitting power plants, impacting health, education, incomes. Environmental justice can be served by using community-based solar to replace the fossil fuel burned at old power plants, and remove the plants entirely.
The NAACP has taken this direct action as part of its Environmental and Climate Justice Program. There are toolkits, links to local efforts, full-length movies and videos and resources all available from the NAACP.
UCS is developing the science and tools to make the direct replacement of power plants with solar, efficiency and storage or demand response a common practice. We have been inspired by early work of Elena Krieger and real cases in California where power plants are to be closed, replaced, or never built as solar plus storage fill the need. We have watched with hope as the solar solutions for Puerto Rico start to take shape, and as legislation in Illinois paves a path for solar for low-income folks.
To close with more words from Dr. King:
“Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.”
[Correction Tuesday 1/16/2018, 1:35pm: We corrected Dr. Krieger’s first name. It’s Elena, not Elaine]