Great companies know that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are principles that genuinely benefit the communities we cultivate and the markets we serve. But how can solar professionals truly walk the talk and hold ourselves accountable to our teammates, our trade, and our society? These were the themes of this week’s #SolarTownHall.
“From a workforce perspective, our industry has a lot of work to do,” said Melanie Santiago-Mosier, Managing Director at Vote Solar, to lead off our expert roundtable. DEI principles should be a no-brainer for the solar industry, our panelists agreed: diverse leadership groups have proven benefits for the bottom line; neighborhoods of color have faster uptake of solar, once an installation happens at one household. But businesses can’t pursue diversity for diversity’s sake: Anna Bautista, VP of Construction at GRID Alternatives, reminds that DEI training, inclusive hiring practices, and intentionality are all within reach for small and mid-sized solar companies. Only with a diverse mindset and team makeup can companies build trust with under-served communities.
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And our communities need access to clean energy. Bart Croes, former Research Chief at the California Air Resources Board, shared an endless list of health and air quality impacts that communities of color often suffer — trends that could be reversed with non-combustion energy sources. Taking the holistic approach of energy efficiency beyond simply solar is, in fact, the philosophy of Jason Carney, CEO of Energy Electives LLC in Nashville, and President of the Tennessee Solar Energy Association. Carney says giving people “the autonomy they need to thrive” is the key, but cautions businesses who stay within comfort zones and don’t build partnerships to gain trust. “If you don’t have that trust with the folks that you’re working with, you’re just very transactional, and not grow.”
Our Town Hall was packed with even more profound insights and recommendations, perhaps best summarized by Vote Solar’s Melanie Santiago-Mosier, who says if we are not embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion as a solar industry, we are heartbreakingly leaving good business on the table and heartbreakingly enforcing dangerous prejudices and systemic biases. Indeed, all of us have more work to do — and as our CEO Boaz Soifer reminds us: we have to want to be better, not just saying we should be better. Today’s Town Hall is one more start to that conversation.
- Anna Bautista — Vice President, Construction, GRID Alternatives
- Bart Croes — Chief of Research Division (ret.), California Air Resources Board
- Jason Carney — President, Tennessee Solar Energy Association; CEO, Energy Electives LLC
- Melanie Santiago-Mosier — Managing Director, Access & Equity Program, Vote Solar
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Additional links and resources shared by today’s expert panelists:
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