Resilient Power Leadership Grants Help Low-Income Communities Access Solar+Storage Solutions

There are hundreds of resilient solar+storage projects now in development or deployed in the U.S., as more companies and consumers become aware of the benefits that solar+storage systems can offer. Unfortunately, very few community-based organizations have the internal capacity to move solar+storage projects forward or to advocate for policies that could lead to greater resilient power deployment in their communities. This is particularly true for nonprofits that serve low-income communities, which are most in need of cost savings and resiliency benefits from solar+storage, but often have limited resources available to access new technology solutions.

To address the unequal distribution of clean energy technologies, Clean Energy Group has launched the Resilient Power Leadership Initiative, a component of the Resilient Power Project, with the goal of seeding long-term, community-led programs that further advance energy equity and environmental justice. Through this initiative, Leadership Grants have been awarded to seven nonprofit organizations working in the areas of affordable community housing, environmental justice, energy equity, and sustainability:

The California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA) is a statewide, community-led organization that works to create comprehensive change and grow the movement for environmental health and social justice through organizing, movement-building, and strategic policy advocacy. CEJA empowers low-income communities and people of color to create resilient communities that are blanketed with local clean renewable energy, including advanced comprehensive technologies such as energy storage.

CEJA’s Leadership Grant will be used to educate and mobilize environmental justice communities on comprehensive solar+storage solutions, and to lead the campaign to successfully implement the Multifamily Affordable Housing Solar Roofs Program (MAHSR) in California.

The Greenlining Institute, headquartered in California, works towards building a nation where communities of color thrive and race is never a barrier to economic opportunity. Greenlining’s energy and environmental equity programs are focused on ensuring that California’s investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other “green” technology are equitably distributed, so that all Californians have a chance to benefit.

Greenlining’s Leadership Grant will be used to conduct the outreach necessary to make sure affordable housing owners are aware of the challenges/benefits of solar+storage technologies and opportunities that will become available in California through the MAHSR program. The grant will also be used to work with housing advocates, the California Public Utilities Commission, and the MAHSR program administrators to help ensure that building owners get the information and assistance they need to participate successfully in the program, and to directly engage property owners and other community stakeholders to inform them and their tenants about solar+storage opportunities.

LINC Housing works to create and preserve housing that is both affordable and environmentally sustainable. LINC serves low-income communities across California, with most of its properties located in the greater Los Angeles area. LINC Housing’s Leadership Grant will be used to provide staffing to pursue resilient solar+storage housing projects, and to support efforts to expand the model of the multi-site solar project and apply it to use tax-credits for energy storage on the same sites.

Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) is a nonprofit developer, owner and operator of nearly 9,000 affordable homes in Connecticut, DC, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. POAH’s primary mission is to preserve, create and sustain affordable, healthy homes that support economic security and access to opportunity for all.

POAH has secured long-term affordability for residents while addressing the interests of owners, funders, public agencies, and other stakeholders. POAH’s Leadership Grant will be used to analyze and incorporate resilient power strategies at new construction projects, and to gain a better understanding of how to include solar+storage technologies and resilient design principles across POAH’s existing affordable housing portfolio.

Sust`āinable Molokai is a grassroots group formed to inspire the island community of Molokai, Hawaii to work towards a more sustainable future. Sust`āinable Molokai conducts education and advocacy work that honors traditional and cultural pathways alongside modern strategies for sustainability. Building on the success of past community energy projects, Sust`āinable Molokai is working to build capacity to broaden the breadth and depth of the island’s community renewable energy projects.

Sust`āinable Molokai’s Leadership Grant will be used to support the organization’s work on utility scale solar+storage innovation, financing and policy work; partnership building; and advocating for legislation to allow battery storage for lower to middle income households through an existing revolving loan program.

THE POINT Community Development Corporation is dedicated to youth development and the cultural and economic revitalization of the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx, a low-income community of color. THE POINT uses the lens of environmental justice, youth development and arts and culture to engage Hunts Point residents in creating a more livable community and to generate economic opportunity. THE POINT has long-standing community-based partnerships in the South Bronx and has a track record of collaboration with local stakeholders, community-based organizations, elected officials, government agencies, and neighborhood planning processes.

THE POINT’s Leadership Grant will be used to mobilize the community to advocate for large solar installations with support from back-up battery storage as the best possible scenario for the community, and advocate for a strong commitment from New York City to pursue the best possible scenario for energy pilot projects for the community, while creating renewable energy sources to reduce the current reliance on diesel for emergency power generation. The grant will also be used to pursue distributive energy resource solutions, such as community shared solar and battery storage, and other opportunities to address the high-energy burden in the residential community along with the resiliency needs of the community.

WE ACT for Environmental Justice is dedicated to building healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and low-income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. Since 1988, WE ACT has been a driving force of change that improves the well-being of all New Yorkers, with a focus on Northern Manhattan. WE ACT’s Leadership Grant will be used to support continued implementation of its Northern Manhattan Climate Action Plan, which seeks to make the neighborhoods of East, Central, and West Harlem and Washington Heights and Inwood more resilient to the intensifying effects of climate change.

The grant will also be used to lower greenhouse gas emissions while lowering energy costs and improving air quality and, ultimately, health outcomes in vulnerable communities of color and low-income in Northern Manhattan, specifically, and New York City, broadly.

Clean Energy Group is honored to be working with our seven initial Resilient Power Leadership Initiative grantees. Over the coming year, we be working closely with these organizations in support of their efforts to bring the benefits of resilient power to their communities.

To support the grantees’ work, Clean Energy Group will develop targeted resilient power webinars, project and policy development resources, and other related tools and materials. These resources will be publicly available at resilient-power.org to assist other communities. Among these resources is an upcoming webinar on Thursday, April 6, which will review the Resilient Power Project’s recent activities and to provide an overview of the myriad informational resources available on the project’s website — read more and register here.

The Resilient Power Leadership Initiative is supported by The Kresge Foundation, The JPB Foundation, and Surdna Foundation.

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Maria Blais Costello is the Manager of Program Administration for Clean Energy Group and the Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA). For more than 20 years, she has managed the development, communications, and publication production activities for both organizations. Maria leads internal and external communications, manages program deliverables and timelines, and assists with strategic planning. For CESA, Maria serves as the Board’s secretary and project director for the “State Leadership in Clean Energy Awards,” which are held biennially to recognize exemplary state programs that advance clean energy markets, projects, and financing tools. She also coordinates membership services and special events. For Clean Energy Group, Maria serves as corporate secretary and grants manager. Maria previously worked at the Conservation Law Foundation as the office manager for the Vermont office. She holds a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Economics from the University of New Hampshire. Maria volunteers with Everybody Wins Vermont, a literacy mentoring program for children. She and her husband, Paul, reside in Montpelier, VT in a home powered by community solar and heated with an air source heat pump; they also are early adopters of an all-electric vehicle.

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