Clean Tech's mission is anti-racist. But our lack of diversity across our own teams handicaps our efforts. Part 1 of 2 | go to part 2
Clean tech exists to fight climate change. But we’re going about it with one hand tied behind our backs. Let’s fix that.
We know climate change disproportionately impacts low wealth communities and communities of color. By its very nature, our mission is anti-racist. But our lack of diversity across our own teams handicaps our efforts. And the benefits of clean energy simply do not accrue equally to all individuals and communities.
In addition to the moral imperative to diversify, which is massive, diversity in clean tech is simply good business. This is a huge opportunity for our industry not only to ally ourselves with what is right, but to grow. We can stamp out racism and exclusion where we see it. Doing that will make our industry stronger. We should want this.
It’s not something to fight. It’s something to fight for, compelled by a sense of fairness and a vision of what our industry could be.
Things are Better Than They Used to Be
It can be depressing to look down the barrels of our double pandemic — COVID-19 and racial injustice — and wonder how clean tech can survive. And yet, our industry has made significant progress on other fronts. We now have many multiple billion dollar solar, EV and battery storage companies. Rooftop solar is growing dramatically — up 50% a year since 2012. Hardware technology costs and soft costs are plummeting. Permitting and interconnection barriers have dropped, making clean energy projects easier and faster to build.
But It’s Still Bad; This Work Can’t Wait
However, clean energy needs justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) more than ever. In the past few months, research from UC Berkeley and others has reminded us of the disparities in both the clean energy workforce, as well in solar energy deployment/business models.
Low-income, Black and Latinx communities pay up to three times more than the average household on home energy costs, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. This is what we call the Energy Burden. Despite showing higher levels of interest in fighting climate change, Black- and Latinx-majority census tracts have installed significantly less rooftop PV compared with no racial majority and white tracts. This is what we call a missed business opportunity.
So, while clean tech is making strides, we can help it along by fixing these systemic, institutional and individual JEDI issues. Imagine how much faster and to scale we could do it with both hands free to get to work.
Next week, Part 2: less talk, more action. Places to get started doing the work.
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This post was co-written with Shiva Patel, MBA Candidate @ Berkeley, Haas | Energy & Climate Justice Finance + Investments.