Local clean energy brings social justice forward - part 2

 Written by Armando Gaetaniello on 6/16/2016

Before reading on, make sure you read the first part of this blog post.

 

Last week, I left off arguing that clean energy has been a market for those that can afford the upfront expense or have good credit. Here's the good news: now any electricity customer in Maryland is empowered to choose a local solar project that will not impact anyone's health. I am referring to the recent regulations promulgated by the Public Service Commission and to the bill that was signed into law last year. It'll also help ratepayers have forecastable and affordable rates. Yes, you read that right, shared solar systems can offer you kWh rates that are lower than or equal to those of your utility - while being stable as the sun produces free fuel for us to harness.

What's the big deal with community solar?

In short, any Maryland electricity customer can now buy clean power generated from a local solar array (located in the same service territory of the customer). Any ratepayer can now sign up for a portion of a large solar array (and the power produced by it). The size of this portion will depend on each household's electricity needs. The clean power purchased will be reimbursed on the utility bill at the retail price that the utility charges ratepayers normally. A solar subscriber will then only pay the utility if the solar array has not produced enough electricity to completely offset the bill. As mentioned, the kWh rate paid for the clean power generated will likely be lower than the utility's kWh rate used to reimburse the subscriber. That is how each household can save money. This law basically levels the playing field by allowing any household to access clean power from a local host site, without any installation or down payment needed. It empowers anyone to contribute to our clean energy future, no matter if you have a good roof or not. It will also help less affluent households lower their bills.

 

And from my perspective, solar energy should be enjoyed first and foremost by those that have been shut out until now. Participating in a clean power project while lowering the electricity bill is a powerful combination that was missing up until now. Low to moderate income communities should take advantage of this as other people in the state have already saved money through individual solar installations. Community solar changes the rules of the game by putting forth a very inclusive model. All neighborhoods can now get electricity that does not have negative effects on human health or the environment.

Solar energy should be enjoyed first and foremost by those that have been shut out until now.

Participating in a clean power project while lowering the electricity bill is a powerful combination that was missing up until now. Low to moderate income communities should take advantage of this as other people in the state have already saved money through individual solar installations. Community solar changes the rules of the game by putting forth a very inclusive model. All neighborhoods can now get electricity that does not have negative effects on human health or the environment.


Demanding safer, healthier communities "is the continuation of the civil rights movement", said Dr Sacoby Wilson, Assistant Professor, Applied Environmental Health (MIAEH) at the University of Maryland. I believe that as well. Also, environmental justice doesn't only concern the burden of impacts experienced by minorities. It also comes down to disempowerment of the same minorities, as these communities are not included in the planning of their towns. They have little say about the process behind local land use and land tenure. So how about reversing the situation and start planning for your own local clean energy facility? We can build communities, provide green jobs, and strengthen local economies through solar power development. Let's do that together, and free your neighborhood from fossil fuel dependency (and its impacts). Environmental and social justice organizations can build support for this important shift.


Underserved populations are more affected by local environmental impacts driven by outdated energy generation. They would also have the most to gain now that the tide is turning. One of the responses to inequity and climate change is to build grassroots demand for local clean power, including community solar installations, for the advancement of a whole community. Make sure that your community is in touch with us and tell your neighbors about getting involved.


We also had the pleasure to publish this article on Progressive Maryland blog.

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