Spring Update from Vote Solar’s Access & Equity Team

Melanie & Lavannya
Access & Equity team members Lavannya Pulluveetil Barrera and Melanie Santiago-Mosier at our Energy Equity Workshop in partnership with Chispa AZ

Core to the work I do at Vote Solar is the question, What can we as an organization, offer to partners in support of the work they are doing within their communities? The answer to this question continues to evolve and expand to be sure, but in 2019, I and other members of our team dedicated significant attention to developing and delivering community workshops alongside our partners. These community workshops aim to bring together energy advocates, local businesses, and community members to develop a vision for individual states’ energy systems, clean energy economies, and pathways to address energy inequities. These workshops focus on sharing information about the energy system, the transition to a clean energy economy, and how participants can be advocates for the transition they want to see.

Read on for a recap of what our workshop efforts looked like in 2019 and a sneak peek at what is to come in 2020.

Supporting our Solar Equity Initiative Partners

This past year, Vote Solar staff supported the planning and execution of several workshops hosted by our partners in the Solar Equity Initiative. Vote Solar was happy to serve as an on site resource, presenting content on energy policy, communication strategies, and organizing tactics, as well as working with participants to create action plans for continued clean energy advocacy in their communities.

We appreciated the opportunity to contribute to Energy Justice trainings hosted by the NAACP in Louisiana, Michigan, and Maryland. These trainings are held all over the U.S. and are meant to support the ongoing energy justice work of local NAACP chapters. Each training allowed our staff to connect with local leaders and learn from their inspiring community-driven advocacy efforts. I was very moved hearing about the local organizing efforts that led to the establishment of the Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund. This was a sweeping win that was totally community-led in its vision and execution, and highlights the importance of building a grassroots movement.

Our partners United Methodist Women (UMW) also graciously invited us to collaborate in planning their Just Energy For All trainings in Tennessee and Illinois. These trainings bring together around 60 fired up United Methodist Women members who are interested in learning how they can advance a just energy future in their communities. Vote Solar appreciates the opportunity to contribute to the overall agenda of these trainings and grow our connections to faith communities across the U.S. It has truly been an honor for me to witness individuals connecting their beliefs to energy issues. Faith communities are full of passionate people looking to make a difference, and understanding their commitment to service has deepened my understanding of my own role in the movement for clean energy.

During the most recent training hosted by UMW, we had the chance to work with Green for All and We Own It as part of the planning team. We look forward to continuing our engagement with these organizations in the future.

Vote Solar’s Workshop Offerings

In August we hosted a workshop for community-based organizations in New Jersey to discuss the opportunities available via the new community solar pilot program. The day long workshop included discussions of what a just energy system could look like in the state and how to ensure that community solar and its many economic and environmental benefits were reaching low-income and environmental justice communities. The workshop surfaced important concerns from those in attendance and ultimately informed the New Jersey Shines policy roadmap. Long time partners GRID Alternatives, PosiGen, Sunrun, and Power52 were in attendance to answer questions about their solar programs as well.

In the fall, the Access and Equity team worked with Chispa Arizona, Wildfire, and the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) to host a series of three workshops in Phoenix. The series entitled ¡Se Fue la Luz! (The Lights Are Out!) was offered with Spanish translation to increase the accessibility of content, and ultimately has created new opportunities for collaboration in the state as we seek to make Arizona a more solar-friendly state.

2020 Plans

Building off the success of our first series of workshops in collaboration with our partners in Arizona, this March we are hosting two more events in Phoenix. We are hoping to share helpful information about our energy system, electric bill assistance programs, and highlight venues where community members can advocate for change. More details can be found on our registration page available here.

Additionally, we are looking to host a second community solar workshop in New Jersey and collaborate with local organizations. In the summer we anticipate hosting workshops and community listening sessions to inform policy development in the southeast. Stay tuned for more information on these efforts by signing up for our monthly newsletter! And as always, if you are interested in working with our team to host a community workshop please feel free to reach out. We appreciate hearing from groups of all sizes!

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