Access & Equity Advisory Committee (AEAC) 2022-23: Equitable Interconnection
The Access and Equity Advisory Committee (AEAC) was created to bring together a collective of Black, Indigenous and experts of color together to create innovative best practices and policy solutions that enable equitable participation and benefit from clean energy. Each year, the AEAC members rotate & meet together to explore and provide equity centered recommendations to address the most pressing barriers to clean energy access for frontline, low-wealth and BIPOC (black, indigenous, persons of color) communities.
When we think about the process of interconnection ‒a set of rules that dictate how clean energy resources such as solar can be safely and reliably connected to the electricity grid‒ it is often not viewed through an equity-based lens. For frontline, low wealth, and BIPOC communities, interconnection is not simply a process but one with inequitable practices that create a systemic barrier between access and clean energy. This year Vote Solar’s Access and Equity Advisory Committee, in partnership with the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), will be workshopping “Equitable Interconnection” with a virtual gathering in Summer 2023.
Without an equity-based lens, the interconnection ruling process is seen as a checklist guideline where an agreement is executed between the utility company and the distributed solar customer to connect local clean energy projects to the grid. However, within BIPOC communities there have been decades of underinvestment in grid infrastructure, and practices like redlining that have led to systemic inequities of the process being unveiled. As a result, communities affected by racial and class disparities may be forced to take financial responsibility for upgrading their grid infrastructure to meet interconnection ruling guidelines, which can be an expensive burden. Moreover, the inequities of the process deepen for communities into lack of technical expertise, capacity constraints of the grid, solar pv system qualifications may not be met, poor utility communication with the customer, and lack of prioritization of BIPOC and low-wealth communities within the queue process because of historical, institutional, and procedural barriers.
A thorough equity analysis of the interconnection ruling process enables a more race and class consciousness practice that seeks to shift accountability to the institutions of harm rather than the community. Under the guidance of Vote Solar’s Access and Equity team and the expertise of IREC, our committee members will learn how to identify, advocate, and dismantle the inequities of the interconnection process to activate more equitable clean energy projects in their respective communities.
Vote Solar’s Access and Equity Committee will focus on studying interconnection and analyzing the process and its rules through a racial and class equity lens. The panel will then suggest best practices that advance a more inclusive and equity centric interconnection process. This analysis and best practices will be shared in a future publication.
Read Vote Solar’s Access & Equity Advisory Committee’s handout on Equitable Interconnection. As solar power advances nationwide, the demand for state officials, regulators, and utility entities to create intersectional approaches for a more equitable interconnection process for frontline, low-wealth, and BIPOC communities must grow as well.
Access & Equity Advisory (AEAC) 2022-23 Current Committee Members:
- Cherie Brooks Wallace, President & CEO, Power52 Foundation
- Sherrie Villmark, Program Director, Community Energy Project
- Dion Mensah, Energy Justice Fellow, Ohio Environmental Council
- Caetano de Campos Lopes, Director of Climate Policy, C3
- Lamisa Chowdhury, Manager, Program Portfolio, DC Sustainable Energy Utility
- Hugo Polanco, Partner, Creosote Partners
Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) Partner Members:
- Radina Valova, Regulatory Vice President, IREC
- Mari Hernandez, Assistant Director – Regulatory, IREC
- Shay Banton, Regulatory Program Engineer and Energy Justice Policy Advocate, IREC