Solar Equity Initiative
Equitable Solar Policy Principles
Released Spring 2021
In 2018, the NAACP launched the Solar Equity Initiative (SEI) to increase solar installations in communities of color and to connect these communities to skills training for solar jobs, all supported by strengthened solar equity policies. The Initiative is centered on the civil, economic, and environmental justice rights connecting communities of color and low-income communities across the nation. Today, the Solar Equity Initiative has grown to include additional solar industry partners, clean energy advocacy organizations, faith groups, and community partners invested in advancing the equitable deployment of solar and its benefits, developing bold solar policy, and addressing the impacts of climate change.
In 2021, the Solar Equity Initiative developed this set of Equitable Solar Policy Principles to ensure internal alignment and develop a shared understanding of equitable solar policy. These principles can assist advocates and policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels to craft policy solutions that are holistic in nature and ensure benefits flow to Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC), and other frontline communities.
Studies have shown that low-income and communities of color bear higher levels of exposure to pollution from fossil fuel-based energy production. Communities of color and low-income communities are subject to poor health outcomes, compromised education, loss of livelihoods, and loss of life as a result of exposure to toxins and the ravages of climate change. The 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race presents an opportunity for future exploration and incorporation into policy development.
Open and inclusive solar policymaking must address past, current, and future impacts of pollution on frontline and BIPOC communities. For too long, policies surrounding solar energy have not adequately offered communities an opportunity to lessen their energy burden, improve health outcomes, or increase access to employment and business opportunities. Additionally, for frontline and BIPOC communities proximity and ownership of land continues to be a challenge.
To be successful, an equitable solar policy must incorporate aspects of transparency, ownership, accountability and move communities towards a more resilient and just future that takes into account all of their needs.
Solar Policy Principle Requirements
This set of Equitable Solar Policy Principles should be considered a living document that the Solar Equity Initiative will periodically revisit to best reflect our collective commitments.
In order to create tangible progress for BIPOC and other frontline communities, equitable solar policy should:
- Principle 1: reflect an inclusive and community-driven theory of change guided by the Principles of Environmental Justice and the Jemez Principles of Democratic Organizing.
- Principle 2: address past, current, and future impacts of climate change by fostering the development of solar energy policies that move us toward a resilient and just transition. Solar energy policies should exist as part of a suite of policies to direct a Just Transition towards a decarbonized economy.
- Principle 3: result in measurable improvements in solar adoption rates and whenever possible ownership and control of solar with strong consumer protections in place.
- Principle 4: increase and advocate for resilience (grid, community, and individual).
- Principle 5: be cross-cutting, so that they address water quality, housing affordability, community development, clean air, workforce equity, and jobs, contracting equity, economic development, education, food access and affordability, transportation, utility regulation, community engagement, and other concerns.
- Principle 6: be integrated with energy efficiency, grid upgrades, other renewables, building, and transportation/transit electrification, storage, etc.
- Principle 7: drive both economic and political benefits of solar to reduce energy burdens, make energy more affordable, increase ownership opportunities, create jobs within these communities, and support entrepreneurs and minority and women-owned businesses. Policies should also foster the creation of an inclusive solar energy workforce and business community.
- Principle 8: strive for equitable, accessible solar that also delivers net positive impacts or benefits, educates consumers, and empowers them to make their own, informed decisions. Companies and organizations should operate at the highest ethical standards and not engage in deceptive or abusive acts or practices.