Community Solar Can Advance Social Equity and Energy Security for All
By Mackenzie Swartz, Solar Intern for the DCSEU
I believe community solar investment has the potential to create cost savings that reduce these financial stresses and channel wealth into the hands of residents, providing them with new jobs and self-sustaining economic revitalization. Organizations like the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) are challenging standard solar practices, and I was confident that I could help advance these initiatives. That is why I wanted to spend my last summer of college interning at the DCSEU with the Solar Team.
I was driven to accept this position as it allowed me to explore how to create a greener, healthier, more equitable society alongside industry leaders through the modern energy economy. The solar industry has a chance to shape the larger narrative on energy justice, and advance social equity by ensuring energy security for all socioeconomic levels. Industry leaders are currently building the market and have the ability to choose the norm of how and for whom it functions.
In today’s market, non-profits, renters, and low-income households are being left out of the solar revolution due to financial barriers, misinformation, and lack of opportunity. Through the Solar for All program, the DCSEU is working with local solar contractors to design and install photovoltaic systems at no cost to income-qualified District homeowners. This program is helping to make the solar market more equitable by helping residents access solar who previously may not have had the opportunity. Working alongside the program associates, I manage 84 community renewable energy installations and 130 single-family solar sites, interfacing with the Department of Energy & Environment and DC contractors, to deliver over 7.2 megawatts of solar energy to low-income residents.
I plan on continuing to present this conversation and posing important questions that force industry leaders to contemplate the consequences of rapid market development, “As we make this transition to cleaner energy, who is really benefiting and who is being left behind?” throughout my career in solar. I have found my time at the DCSEU invaluable in expanding my knowledge of equity solutions and providing me a space to contribute to conversations on the future of community solar.
This blog post was written by Macekenzie Swartz, one of the DCSEU's summer interns. Mackenzie is a rising senior attending the George Washington University School of Business where she studies International Business with a minor in Sustainability.