A new report by NYMBUS Holdings, commissioned by Groundswell (a 501c3 nonprofit that builds community solar projects), highlights immediate and measurable steps to close the diversity gap in Washington, D.C.’s solar marketplace to address the underrepresentation of minority and women-owned businesses at every level of the solar supply chain. Prompted by Groundswell’s first-hand experiences in the local solar market and enabled by Groundswell’s participation as a Citi Foundation Community Progress Maker in Washington, D.C., the report explores the equity and inclusion issues facing the solar industry and to identify solutions to drive fair and inclusive markets.
The report, Solar Empowers…Some, highlights the exponential growth of solar power. Nationally, solar contributed to 4 out of 10 electricity generation jobs in 2017. Since 2012, 1 out of every 100 new jobs – across all employment sectors – in the country were created by the solar industry. In D.C., solar employment grew by 10% in 2017 to 1,294 jobs.
The District of Columbia’s local market for solar energy is set to surge thanks to future-focused clean energy policies including D.C.’s Solar for All program, which invests in solar projects that deliver deep utility bill savings to low-income Washingtonians, and D.C.’s recent commitment to run on 100% renewable energy by 2032. Yet, as the report concludes, access to full market participation to build businesses and reap the benefits of this emerging solar boom is far from equitable.
“Our city has put a stake in the ground to lead in renewable energy. We need to ensure the benefits of this commitment are as inclusive as possible and represent all communities,” said Kimberly Lewis, Groundswell board member and the Senior Vice President, Market Transformation and Development at the U.S. Green Building Council.
Currently, there are only three minority or woman-owned solar firms registered in the District of Columbia’s Small and Local Business Development Database compared to 173 District-based solar firms, according to industry sources. The underrepresentation of minority and women-owned businesses is in sharp contrast to the opportunities represented by the growth of the local D.C. solar market, which is projected to add an estimated $300 million in new solar capacity over the next five years.
“Solar power means economic empowerment, and solar power ought to be a ‘Made in D.C.’ industry that reflects the beautiful diversity of our city,” said Michelle Moore, CEO of Groundswell.
The report recommended five immediate and measurable steps towards an equitable and inclusive D.C. solar market:
- Measure and Report: Improve data collection about local minority and woman-owned business participation and employment in the solar market, and make results transparently available;
- Set Goals: Create public-private partnerships and set minority and woman-owned business participation goals for the solar market to measure progress and reward success;
- Engage and Inform: Expand awareness of how the solar market works and identify emerging opportunities for existing minority and woman-owned businesses in adjacent sectors to expand into the solar market;
- Mentor and Connect: Create much-needed entrepreneurial capacity through mentorship and networking programs;
- Made in D.C. Energy Entrepreneurs: Develop energy innovation centers, in collaboration with local academic institutions and utilities, to support emerging minority and women entrepreneurs to launch new energy businesses based in D.C.
“There is no comparison to the benefit of direct participation in the entrepreneurial growth of an emerging economy – in this case, the solar energy market,” said Terrell Richmond, NYMBUS Holdings President, and CEO. “However, in order to create successful pathways of participation, business and employment opportunities must be made known to disadvantaged entrepreneurs, financing must be accessible, and specialized guidance must be available. When minority and woman-owned capacity is developed and afforded fair, equitable access to information and resources, the economic pathways can be substantial and sustainable.”
News item from Groundswell