Solar and other forms of clean energy deployment are accelerating as more states, municipalities, and corporations adopt clean energy goals; and access is expanding as more states adopt community solar policies — especially those targeted at low and moderate-income households. At its current trajectory, however, the emerging clean energy economy — and specifically the rapidly expanding solar market — is replicating the same disparities as the old fossil fuel-based one.

This is observable and measurable, from who leads and owns the companies that are building, investing in, and operating solar projects; to who has access to solar savings; to where solar projects are being built.

For solar, some of these challenges are inherent because the market is structured based on incentives that can be accessed only by wealthy people and companies with sufficient income and financial capital to be able to use tax credits. Systems produce outcomes according to the values on which they’re founded, and national incentives for solar and other renewables value reducing taxes for the wealthy. Vastly more wealth is held by white people and vastly more companies, including solar companies, are led by white people and specifically white men. Therefore, a consequence of the solar market incentives structure is to make the same people and companies that are already wealthy even wealthier. Comparatively, while women, African-Americans, and other people of color may be able to get jobs, ownership is constrained to those who already have capital.

Confronting these challenges is made more complex by the federalist structure of the U.S. energy market. This disparity is a result of rules being set state-by-state and vary depending on the type of ownership and utility structure (investor-owned, electric membership cooperative, or municipal) serving a given community, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Solutions, therefore, must be localized. It is necessary to develop scalable models built to deliver equity by leveraging the full scope of clean energy value chains. We all have a role to play, and Groundswell’s R&D agenda is meant to help light the way.

  • Data Science

    Data Science

    In line with our Strategic Plan, Groundswell’s resolve as a thought leader in data science research and analytics means we use methods, algorithms, and systems to extract knowledge and insights from a wide range of data sources — both structured and unstructured. We use decision science, and evidence-based research to derive data-driven and action-oriented conclusions, and pride ourselves on tackling complex issues that are qualitative, quantitative, and policy driven. We are committed to making data science our number one priority, and as a result developed capabilities in energy modeling and software development tools, machine learning, regression modeling, econometric forecasting, statistical analysis, programming as well as exploratory research including but not limited to geospatial analysis, data visualizations, and market/trend analysis. Our research covers the uneven distribution of energy burdens in the U.S., energy equity modeling, including affordability measures, and incentive design frameworks by utilities. Additionally, our research covers climate change, and strategies for implementing policy legislations like the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and other U.S. energy market policy regulations. 

  • Put People First

    Put People First

    Consistent with our values and our Strategic Plan, Groundswell puts people at the center of our research initiatives. In this work, we prioritize the needs of communities and people who have been subject to disinvestment and systemic racism. We put people first by:

    • Working with communities in a spirit of service
    • Identifying a wide range of ongoing community needs
    • Identifying broadly applicable solutions that benefit communities
    • Partnering with values-aligned organizations
  • Market Transformation

    Market Transformation

    The goal of our research initiatives is market transformation towards equitable clean energy futures for all Americans. The projects we lead:

    • Prioritize historically underserved communities
    • Identify replicable solutions that benefit communities, including financing mechanisms and best practices for the adoption of clean energy solutions.