Blogs

Expanding Access to Clean Energy in American Communities That Have Been Left Behind

Whether you’ve followed our work at Clearloop for a while or you’re just getting to know us, you’ve probably heard that we’re focused on expanding access to clean energy in communities that have been left behind. Co-Founder and CEO Laura Zapata says it best in an article for Canary Media alongside Gavin McCormick of WattTime: “We need to focus initial efforts on communities where clean energy upgrades will deliver the biggest societal impact and the most carbon bang for our solar buck. This approach expands more equitable access to clean energy within communities around the U.S. that are getting left behind.”

The clean energy revolution has been uneven in the United States

But what exactly do we mean by “communities getting left behind?” Where are these communities and how do we find them?

Our drive to identify and invest in these communities started with the idea of energy independence and the right of access to clean energy, something that many Americans have not yet been able to claim. The presently unavoidable reliance on the burning of fossil fuels has prevented people from making their own decisions about how the energy that powers their homes is produced. Energy independence, however, means “not only being able to generate your own electricity…, but also knowing that flipping on your lights is not going to pollute and harm your community no matter where you live in the United States.” 

Ensuring that the environmental, health, and economic benefits of new solar spreads across all communities

Because our approach incorporates a lens of intersectionality, we recognize that the disparity in access to clean energy technologies is connected to and rooted in preexisting concerns within underserved communities. In order to verify this, we’ve paid close attention to the Economic Innovation Group’s Distressed Communities Index, featuring an interactive map that seeks to demonstrate “the spatial distribution of U.S. economic well-being.” This index allows us to “contextualize uneven economic conditions across the country,” to get a better understanding of the areas most affected by environmental injustice, and to begin identifying which communities could benefit from solar investment.

Identifying American communities where investing means a cleaner grid and more jobs

When we describe communities as having been left behind, we mean to say that they have not been allowed or able to incorporate clean energy technology into their local infrastructure, which is often directly connected to a lack of other economic investment. With the help of our friends at WattTime, we have used the concept of emissionality to explain why investing solar energy into these communities is not only beneficial for the electrical grid, but also beneficial for the economic and physical well-being of our country. In an article for Fast Company, Dr. Zdravka Tzankova writes, “An emissionality approach to carbon offsetting means avoiding… hazardous power plant emissions that disproportionately harm communities of color and drive U.S. environmental injustice.” 

Our goal in embracing emissionality and applying the Distressed Community lens to how we make investments in communities is to ensure that the environmental, health, and economic benefits of building new solar capacity reach more areas of our country equitably.

Focusing on expanding access to clean energy in Middle America

Now that we’ve established the beginning of our journey with our first solar project in Jackson, TN, we’re actively searching for other areas in the U.S. that we believe would thrive with a little bit of extra sunshine. We’re hoping to invest in many more communities that have so far been left behind from the clean energy revolutions. The good news is that the opportunity is vast across our country from Mississippi to Colorado, Georgia to Oregon, Indiana to Georgia, where sunny skies are abundant and we should no longer have to rely on fossil fuels for all of our electricity.

We look forward to partnering with organizations, businesses, and individuals to invest in cleaning up the grid and expanding access to clean energy in these local communities for generations to come. 

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Want to learn more about how to reclaim your company’s carbon footprint and expand access to clean energy with Clearloop? Drop us a note at hello@clearloop.us or contact us here.

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