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.