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Power to the People: Advancing Energy Equity in North Carolina and Beyond

Climate Justice Energy Environmental Justice Natural Resources North Carolina

On Thursday, March 30, the Center for Progressive Reform held a webinar on advancing energy equity in North Carolina and beyond. Panelists and the audience explored how customer-owned solar power generation can create equity for low-wealth communities as the country transitions to a clean energy economy. 

Reliable access to clean, affordable electricity is a matter of equity and justice. Yet communities of color, rural communities, and low-wealth communities are more likely to lack access to this basic life necessity. One critical antidote to this disparate effect is energy equity, and one tool to get there is customer-owned generation. This means electric generation via rooftop and community solar as opposed to renewable energy produced and supplied by a utility. 

In this webinar, advocates and experts discussed the state and national landscape around customer-owned generation and the corresponding policy and regulatory challenges to achieving a more equitable energy system. The Center for Progressive Reform’s forthcoming policy brief on the topic served as a springboard for the discussion.

You can watch the webinar recording on this page or by heading to our YouTube channel.


In North Carolina and across the nation, energy costs disproportionately affect low-wealth households, which face high “energy burdens,” or a high cost of energy relative to income. The problem is especially acute in North Carolina, which has an exceedingly high energy burden for low-wealth people.

As the country transitions to a clean energy economy, the counterpoint to these disparate effects is energy equity, where low-wealth communities reap the benefits of and do not bear disproportionate costs, monetary or otherwise, associated with projects to modernize the electrical grid. A key way to advance energy equity is by enabling people to generate their own electricity through “customer-owned generation” of rooftop or community solar.

Customer-owned generation could be a meaningful tool for low-wealth families to reduce energy costs, but there are barriers to overcome. The laws and regulations governing customer-owned generation in North Carolina are complicated, making it difficult for customers to estimate the costs and benefits of “going solar” — rooftop or otherwise.

On March 30, audience members learned about these issues and solutions from our panel of advocates and experts. They are: Ajulo Othow, Center Board member and Founder/CEO of EnerWealth Solutions and the Law Offices of Ajulo E. Othow, PLLC; Joseph Tomain, Center Member Scholar and Dean Emeritus & Professor of Law at the University of Cincinnati College of Law; and Emily Hammond, Center Member Scholar and Vice Provost & Professor at the George Washington University Law School. Center for Progressive Reform Rena Steinzor Climate Justice Policy Fellow Sophie Loeb moderated the discussion.

Climate Justice Energy Environmental Justice Natural Resources North Carolina