An Op-Ed by Natasha Ferguson, GRID Marketing Communications Specialist
Imagine a world where everyone can live free from pollutants. This goal is part of California’s State Legislators recent bill for California to generate 100 percent of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2045. While many states are setting renewable energy goals, in December of 2018, California became the first in the nation to mandate that new homes be solarized beginning in 2020. GRID Alternatives is making great strides as part of the solution to clean, renewable energy technology. GRID was founded in 2001 during the California Energy crisis by two engineering professionals, Ericka Mackie and Tim Sears. Their vision was to make renewable energy technology and job training accessible to underserved communities worldwide.
GRID is now a national leader in providing these valuable resources and creating a pathway to solar jobs to under-resourced communities and communities of color around the globe. GRID was selected by the CPUC to serve as the statewide program manager for its Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) incentive program in 2008, prompting an expansion in California. Mackie and Sears’ vision has now become a reality through GRID’s people-first model, which helps put money back into families’ pockets, reduces the energy cost burden for housing providers, and jumpstarts solar careers. GRID has nine affiliate offices serving all of California, Colorado, Washington D.C., Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. Also, an international program serving Nicaragua, Nepal and Mexico.
GRID provides the system design and engineering, obtains building permits, procures equipment, prepares and submits rebates and utility interconnection paperwork, and provides an industry-standard 10-year labor warranty and 20-year equipment warranty. Solar installations are led by trained GRID staff, who provide oversight and training to volunteers and job trainees. The outreach team is responsible for engaging and educating the homeowners regarding energy efficiency and helps streamline the process from application to installation. These services are possible through support that GRID receives from government agencies, state and local incentives, private foundations, corporate sponsors and individual donors.
GRID Alternatives Inland Empire (GRID IE) an affiliate of GRID Alternatives, was established in 2011 and serves Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Since its inception, GRID IE has installed solar for over 1,700 families and helped households and housing providers save $56 million in lifetime electricity costs, while training over 2,600 people. GRID IE has grown exponentially over these last eight years, from its modest beginning of a few staff, to now over 30 including interns and a SolarCorps fellowship (AmeriCorps) program.
Renewable energy can drive economic growth and environmental benefits in communities most impacted by underemployment, pollution and climate change. GRID focuses its efforts on communities that have been disproportionately impacted by high- energy costs and pollution. The southern region sees exceptionally hot temperatures even in the triple digits for some cities, which is burdensome to families in disadvantaged communities due to increased electrical usage in summer months. The average family can expect to save between 50 to 75 percent on their electricity bills once they receive their no cost solar system.
GRID Alternatives partners with affordable housing organizations, job training groups, government agencies, municipalities, utilities and local communities to make solar a win for everyone. GRID has an array of unique programs through its Workforce and Volunteer team that provides hands-on job training and creates a path to solar jobs. These programs include:
- Women in Solar –a national Women in Solar Initiative to encourage more women to pursue a career in the solar industry and support them in their professional endeavors.
- Tribal Program – The Tribal Program focuses on offering tribal communities access to renewable energy and education about the solar industry.
- Solar Futures – provides both classroom and hands-on solar education to K-14 students, with a focus on high school juniors and seniors.
Energy for all is a GRID program that helps people on a limited or fixed income qualify for solar power on their homes at no cost. This program gives homeowners access to energy savings, clean energy and job training opportunities. Individuals interested in seeing if they qualify can visit www.gridsolar.org. In addition, if you would like to apply for GRID’s free job training, visit www.gridalternatives.org/get-training.