Solar with Justice: Connecting States and Communities

To ensure the benefits of solar are equitably shared, under-resourced communities need to be able to participate actively in solar development.

The best way to ensure LMI customers are represented in the solar development process is for state energy agencies (SEAs) to actively collaborate with frontline community-based organizations (CBOs).

CESA’s Solar with Justice: Connecting States and Communities project is working with SEAs and CBOs in underserved communities so that they are better able to share the knowledge and information that is needed for solar to be developed efficiently, equitably, and cost-effectively. The project aims to create opportunities for SEAs to better understand the perspectives of CBO leaders , to identify and address solar information gaps, and to involve CBOs in solar initiatives. The project team aims to identify and share models of how states can uplift the knowledge and expertise of CBOs through solar program and project design. Since the project began in 2021, the project team has produced several case studies and reports, as well as organized national convenings of SEAs and CBOs on various solar topics.

The Solar with Justice: Connecting States and Communities project is supported through an award from the US Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. The Nathan Cummings Foundation has also provided funding support for the project.

The project is being carried out by a team with deep experience and solid relevant knowledge. In addition to CESA staff, team members include:

  • MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning (Janelle Knox-Hayes and PhD candidates)
  • Energy Trust of Oregon (Betsy Kauffman, Bayoan Ware, Lidia Garcia)
  • Partnership for Southern Equity (Dominique Mack)
  • Vote Solar (Leah Taylor)
  • Kim Wolske of the University of Chicago

The Solar with Justice: Connecting States and Communities project builds on prior work that CESA has conducted examining the solar landscape in underserved communities through its Solar with Justice report.

The Solar with Justice Report

In December 2019, CESA published a major report, Solar with Justice: Strategies for Powering Up Under-Resourced Communities and Growing an Inclusive Solar Market. With funding from The Nathan Cummings Foundation, CESA worked with the Jackson State University Department of Urban and Regional Planning, the Partnership for Southern Equity, PaulosAnalysis, the University of Michigan School for Environment & Sustainability, and The Solutions Project to research solar’s role in under-resourced communities and identify the most equitable and impactful strategies for advancing solar technologies in a way that benefits under-resourced communities. The report includes detailed recommendations for various key stakeholder groups, including state governments, community organizations, philanthropic foundations, the solar industry, and municipalities.

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This project is made possible through a funding award from the US Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. The US Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office supports early-stage research and development to improve the affordability, reliability, and performance of solar technologies on the grid. Learn more at energy.gov/solar-office.

The project is also made possible by a grant from The Nathan Cummings Foundation.

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Photo courtesy RE-volv.