Reliable access to clean, affordable electricity is a matter of equity and justice. Yet communities of color, rural communities, and low-wealth people are more likely to lack access to this basic life necessity, often leaving them without the ability to heat their homes, cook their food, access school, work, and health care, and more. Indeed, marginalized groups are more likely to experience power outages, shoulder burdensome energy costs, and live near factories and facilities that spew toxic pollution into our air, land, and water.
These communities have contributed the least to climate change yet bear its greatest costs. This paper explores this injustice as it relates to people’s ability to generate their own electricity using solar panels on their properties and in their communities. Customer-owned electricity generation is one avenue by which underserved North Carolinians and others around the nation can right historical wrongs by creating more reliable access to electricity and, in so doing, protect themselves from the climate crisis and build wealth.
This brief identifies policy barriers to customer-owned generation and explores policy solutions in North Carolina. It aims to help those who are working to educate the North Carolina public around customer-owned generation and advocate for policy solutions that support it and offers lessons for those working toward similar goals in other states. It also urges North Carolina lawmakers to adopt specific policy recommendations that will reduce regulatory hurdles around customer-owned generation and create a more equitable energy policy landscape.