Environmental Coalition Proposes Solar Roadmap for Justice

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

This week, a coalition of environmental organizations released a solar power roadmap for the Biden-Harris administration. The proposal, sponsored by Earthjustice, Coalition for Community Solar Access, and the NAACP, emphasizes equitable access to clean energy in the race to meet the administration’s goal of 100% clean energy by 2035. The only way to do that, the proposal states, is to revolutionize our power grid and energy infrastructure completely.

Why This Matters: The same communities most likely to suffer the consequences of climate change are also most likely to be locked out of the clean energy transition. Communities of color, low-income households, and Indigenous communities are more likely to live in areas with high pollution and lack access to healthcare and clean water. These same communities have also been impacted most by the pandemic. Ensuring frontline and vulnerable populations have access to the environmental and the economic benefits of a surging green energy economy, the government must ensure that solar energy is intentional in its deployment.

Three Legs to Stand On: The roadmaps goals state that a minimum of 40% of the benefits of the solar market must go to underserved communities. It hopes to achieve this by:

  • Reaching 30 million solar-powered households, including 15 million with low or moderate incomes.
  • Spurring hundreds of millions of dollars of private investment into public infrastructure, entrepreneurship, and economic opportunity for communities.
  • Building a resilient new power grid that can support 100% renewable energy by 2035.

Without intentional policy, the grid of the future — regardless of where its electric power comes from — will continue to disempower and lock out underserved communities,” states the proposal, “federal policy can open up energy choices for more people, help create sustainable and just economies to ensure equitable access to the benefits of local clean energy, and empower over 30 million households to go solar by 2035.” The proposal utilizes tax breaks, federal solar programs, existing housing programs, agricultural programs, and more to empower underserved communities. It also suggests passing new legislation, like the Community Solar Choice Act of 2020, which would benefit rural and low-income communities hit hard by pollution.

The proposal also seeks to end energy poverty, ensuring that green energy will remain reliable and affordable for low-income households. It suggests increasing federal funding for energy in Indigenous communities and passing the Low Income Solar Energy Act. The act, proposed by Senator Tammy Duckworth (D–Ill.), would require the Department of Energy to expand solar workforce programming to underrepresented groups, including women, veterans, tribes, former fossil fuel workers, and formerly incarcerated individuals.

At this week’s virtual Earth Day Summit approaches, President Biden is preparing to announce new emissions targets that will set the stage for the next decade of environmental policy. Experts hope they’ll be ambitious, but no matter what the President presents, it’s all-hands-on-deck. Ensuring equity and access to the benefits of the green revolution is the only option if the country wants to succeed in the fight against climate change.

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