Op Ed: Solar Energy vs. Social Justice

social-justiceBy Andrew Ysiano

As we approach the green revolution and legislation to support the advancement of clean energy and technology, it is of critical importance that we do so in a way that is comprehensive in the large scheme of social and environmental justice.
The issue with the system of solar subsidies in California runs deep. Pockets are well lined on both the industrial and savvy consumers end, while the majority of the people paying for these so-called advancements are unable to afford the solar panels in the first place.
We have learned that the progressive environmental movement must include an awareness and integration of the socioeconomic factors in environmental and energy decision making. When people of color are paying for the electricity grid and the wealthy neighborhoods are being subsidised by those same people who cannot afford that service, a great injustice is at play.
That is what I have learned through my examination of both the state and federal incentive programs and the companies that are using them to recruit rich and savvy home installers and together share in subsidies unseen by any other community.  Yet these communities are paying, and no small share.
Originally devised to encourage entrepreneurship and private investment for solar in California, the “net-metering” provision of the 2005 Energy Policy Act is the chief mechanism for this ongoing injustice, which is holding back communities economically and in great irony, holding back the entire solar movement. This mechanism allows for the wealthy that can afford solar to offset their electricity costs through the contribution of solar energy generation. They receive incentives for those contributions, save costs on their energy impact, and all the while the solar companies are taking in state and federal incentives on top of the individual gains.
This system relies on affluent consumers access to information and accountants, and to utilize the incentive programs in ways that less informed and resourceful communities cannot engage with. Even if they wanted to, lower income communities cannot afford the start up costs of solar installation. So for the time, they can only be a part of this faction of the green revolution by paying out for the wealthy. The cost of this in California has left lower income and communities of color with a staggering 1.1 billion in taxes. How can a movement founded in progressive and forward thinking values continue to operate so unfairly and inefficiently? It’s time we take responsibility and demand a fair system that truly opens up the door to a wide scale use of solar.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *