This is the third in a series about episodes in season seven of Connect the Dots, the Center for Progressive Reform’s podcast on climate solutions. Subsequent posts will be posted throughout the summer.
Episode three, “Energy Justice and Community Solar Power,” takes listeners to North Carolina and reveals how community solar has the power to lower energy costs and increase energy reliability. Host Rob Verchick speaks with Ajulo Othow, who is a Board Member to the Center for Progressive Reform and the founder, CEO of EnerWealth Solutions. As a community-based organization, Othow’s company seeks to advance an ecologically sustainable world, where power is held locally and decisions are made democratically. Othow explains how distributed forms of solar, like rooftop panels or community solar, can promote energy justice and equity by allowing customers to own their own energy.
Why North Carolina?
Between 2010 to 2020, solar energy surged from nearly zero to seven percent of the state’s energy mix. What’s more, a 2021 Environment America report ranked the state third nationally for solar energy production growth, most of it coming from utility-scale projects in rural areas.
However, the state’s primary utility company, Duke Energy, has exclusive right to sell power in its territories. As the state prepares a transition to clean energy, Duke Energy is likely to further marginalize overburdened communities with skyrocketing rates.
While the state and Duke Energy have failed to propose an energy transition that is inclusive of and equitable for all communities, Othow and EnerWealth Solutions partner with rural community groups to advocate for better policy planning to ensure they are represented in the process.
How it’s working
In the episode, Othow refers to one example in which a rural, predominantly Black town in North Carolina, serviced by the Roanoke Elective Cooperative, has partnered with EnerWealth Solutions to make energy rates more affordable. Roanoke Electric Cooperative and EnerWealth Solutions set up an array of solar panels locally and piloted a subscription program in which residents could opt in to receiving their energy from the solar panels. Based on residents’ subscription plan, they received a credit connected to the energy produced by the solar panels. This credit could later be used to reduce their electricity bill or could be put toward home energy efficiency improvements.
In addition to EnerWealth Solutions’ efforts, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 offers a tax credit for renewable energy generation to low-income communities.
Equitable solutions to clean energy will allow all people to access affordable renewable energy. Community-based solar solutions are a means to achieving that.
For all the details to this episode, subscribe and listen to Connect the Dots on your favorite podcasting platform, and be sure to subscribe to catch the next episode on a legislative climate win in Maine.
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