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Health, Wealth, And Education: How SEIA’s Clean Energy Advocacy is Prioritizing Environmental Justice

Wednesday, Dec 13 2023

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SEIA Comms Team
Solar panels near a fossil fuel plant.

Our energy systems are changing.  

For decades, communities of color and low-income communities have been systematically excluded from the benefits of energy development while, at the same time, bearing a disproportionate share of its pollution.

The transition to clean energy represents a generational opportunity to reverse decades of environmental racism and build a more inclusive and just energy system that all Americans can participate in and benefit from.

This is why environmental justice is a core priority of SEIA’s work.  

Two years ago, SEIA released an environmental justice policy platform that put forward recommendations for how the industry can thoughtfully manage growth and expand opportunities in marginalized communities. Many of these recommendations were passed in the Inflation Reduction Act or included in state-level climate plans.  

But even as some policy prescriptions begin to take shape, SEIA is working to expand its advocacy efforts and promote health, wealth, and educational opportunities in the clean energy economy.  

Health

Communities on the fence line of traditional power plants, often communities of color, have borne the heaviest toll from fossil fuels pollution. Respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases, and a litany of health issues stem from poor air quality and are far more prevalent in communities located near fossil fuel development.  

In addition to the health impacts, marginalized communities are also hit first and worst by the impacts of climate change. Decades of underinvestment and a lack of adequate resources have left marginalized communities and their infrastructure particularly vulnerable to the impacts of extreme weather.  

SEIA’s work to rapidly expand solar deployment, especially in places burdened by pollution, is essential. Powering our grid with clean, emission-free solar will have a dramatic impact on air quality and human health while building resilient, clean energy infrastructure such as microgrids and virtual power plants will help insulate vulnerable communities from the impacts of the climate crisis.  

Wealth

The growth of clean energy is a tremendous opportunity to create well-paying jobs, foster pathways for wealth building, and cut energy costs for all Americans. Historically, communities of color have been excluded from such opportunities in the energy sector but the expansion of solar and storage is an opportunity to flip the script.  

Over the next decade, the U.S. solar industry will need to nearly quadruple its workforce and welcome thousands more small businesses to the market to meet the country’s clean energy goals.  

This is why SEIA has dedicated resources to expanding career pathways and building business ownership opportunities in communities of color. Broadening the inclusivity of the industry is not just the right thing to do, it’s also the only way that America can reach its clean energy goals.  

Education  

To ensure that the benefits of clean energy are accessible to workers of all backgrounds, SEIA advocates for policies and programs that help underserved Americans acquire the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the clean energy economy.  

Recognizing the need for meaningful engagement with frontline communities and environmental justice organizations, SEIA is supporting workforce training programs and collaborating with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority serving institutions to bring more diversity to the solar industry.  

SEIA is also working to benchmark the industry's progress toward an equitable clean energy economy by surveying solar workers and identifying gaps in career advancement for marginalized groups.  

SEIA's dedication to environmental justice underscores the transformative potential of solar and storage. By addressing health disparities, fostering wealth-building opportunities, and promoting educational access, the solar industry has the power to drive meaningful progress toward environmental justice. Through advocacy, research, partnerships, and programming, SEIA is paving the way for a more inclusive and just energy system that benefits all Americans.

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