Source: Nature Sustainability 

In addition to hypothesizing that seeding may play a role in lower levels of deployment in communities of color, researchers suggested that the whiteness of the solar industry’s workforce could be hurting deployment in those communities.

The Solar Foundation’s 2017 U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study found that the solar industry was 74 percent White. White people also held between 78 percent and 90 percent of management and senior executive positions at solar companies. And only 27 percent of employer respondents to the foundation’s survey said they formally track employee diversity.

Making the solar industry more inclusive

Melanie Santiago-Mosier, Vote Solar’s program director of access and equity, said the Naturereport adds to the data showing the solar industry that it needs to improve.

“A significant step toward serving all communities across the country is making sure that our industry internally is very inclusive,” said Santiago-Mosier.

But she also said the industry, along with partners, is working to remedy its abysmal representation numbers. She pointed to initiatives like the Solar Equity Initiative launched last year by the NAACP, with partner support from groups like Vote Solar and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). That program aims to connect communities of color and low-income communities with solar infrastructure and provide solar job training.

Last year, the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Community Development Action Coalition and SEIA also signed an agreement to work together on recruiting more students into the industry from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In 2016, SEIA also published a “best practices” guide to boost diversity and inclusion in hiring and recruitment.

Santiago-Mosier also said it’s essential for the industry to build partnerships on the ground with community organizations in underserved communities.

That’s especially important because communities of color have and continue to be disproportionately impacted by pollution from fossil fuels. Grassroots organizations in these communities have long fought against the unequal environmental impacts they’ve faced. Because “this is an industry that was founded on the desire to do better,” Santiago-Mosier said solar must to do its part to mitigate those impacts.

“The promise of solar energy is one of lower and stabilized utility bills, investments in local economies and healthier communities,” said Santiago-Mosier. “The industry should … embrace the opportunity to use this information, use the data that’s out there to say: Where should we be going? Where should we be deploying solar and how should we be growing? ….The opportunity is there for the solar industry to really take a look at how it is serving its customers.”

Both Santiago-Mosier and Sunter said, aside from the study’s clear justice implications, the industry should also recognize the opportunity presented in communities of color where solar penetration is low. Increasing adoption in all areas of demand is the only way to grow markets to their full potential.

“Ultimately if [the industry] wants to maximize adoption, they’re going to have to understand and address what these challenges and issues are that are resulting in minority communities basically being left out of this growth,” said Sunter. “If there isn’t intervention, it’s likely this disparity could continue to grow.”

Source: greentechmedia