What Does an Equitable Energy Future Look Like?

by Anthony Giancatarino

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama vowed that he would “not walk away from the promise of clean energy.” This is a commitment in the right direction. Not only will this help create a cleaner environment, but it will also provide jobs and long-term energy and economic security. We have the tools and technology to make it happen – thousands of Americans participate by placing solar panels on their roofs or harvesting wind on farm land. But for this to be a truly sustainable solution – we need to ensure that investments in clean energy include everyone.

So far, they have missed that mark.

A forthcoming report by CSI, Energy Democracy: Supporting Community Innovation shows that current renewable energy policies have not included everyone, and provides solutions to change this. For example, incentives to participate in renewable energy are focused on homeownership. But this is a time when over a million Americans have lost their homes. Furthermore, 25% of Whites and over 50% of people of color rent, which excludes participation by many Americans. How can we have an “economy built to last,” if we don’t include everyone, particularly communities of color who will constitute the majority of our population by 2042?

We can start by supporting the community-driven innovation already happening across the country. These projects allow local communities to become energy innovators, providing the tools and technology for everyone to contribute to our nation’s energy and economic security. Investing in these community-scale projects would also provide the opportunity for traditionally excluded communities to reap the benefits of a green economy. But in order for these projects to reach their full potential, we must make the right policy investments – this means expanding the tax credit to support community-owned projects and establishing energy improvement districts to encourage inclusive energy planning.

In his speech last night, President Obama reminded us that “the nation is great because we built it together.” And it is true – some of our greatest moments have come when we work together across race. We participated in this at a national level during the Civil Rights Movement and again when we elected President Obama in 2008. And we are continuously bearing witness to communities on the ground, particularly communities of color, who know that building across race is essential to making this nation strong.

To reach our clean energy goals, we must build across race and support solutions that truly include everyone.

We will be releasing Energy Democracy: Supporting Community Innovation shortly. Stay tuned.

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The Race to Democracy Blog is the news, analysis, and media center for the Center for Social Inclusion (CSI). CSI is a national policy strategy organization that works to transform structural inequity into structural fairness and inclusion. We work with community groups and national organizations to develop policy ideas, foster effective leadership, and develop communications tools for an opportunity-rich world in which we all will thrive.

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