In February 2022, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released the beta version of their Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST), which identifies environmentally and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities eligible for federal resources under the Justice40 initiative. Notably, the tool did not explicitly consider race and ethnic demographics when determining if a community qualifies for the Justice40 initiative. Using 2019 census data, previous Rhodium analysis of the beta tool found that over 50% of Hispanic/Latino, Black, and American Indian/Alaska Native individuals reside in census tracts considered disadvantaged under the screening tool criteria.
On November 22, 2022, the final version (V1.0) of the CEJST was released. This version includes several new environmental and socioeconomic criteria which could establish eligibility for the Justice40 initiative. In this note, we update our analysis to include the criteria in the final version of the tool, and find that the number of communities eligible for benefits under the Justice40 initiative has increased overall. Further, we show that the final criteria dataset highlights the increased burden of compounding environmental, health, and socioeconomic barriers on Black, Hispanic/Latino and American Indian/Alaska Native communities. These communities make up 30% of the US population and 49% of the population of communities eligible for the Justice40 program, but they make up 60% of the population exceeding at least five threshold screening criteria in the tool and 71% of the population exceeding 10+ screening criteria.
Category: Energy justice
Why Greta Thunberg is protesting wind farms in Norway
Read the full story in the Washington Post.
When Swedish climate advocate Greta Thunberg and other activists protested at several Norwegian government ministries this week, they weren’t demonstrating against new petroleum refineries or tax incentives for Big Oil. Instead, they were standing against wind farms, often seen as a key tool in fighting climate change.
But the two wind farms at stake are built on land in central Norway that is traditionally used by the Sami people to herd reindeer, a prized animal that has long provided them with food, clothing and labor. While the turbines bolster Norway’s green ambitions by powering thousands of homes, they do so at a cost activists say is too high: by disrupting the daily life of the Sami people and frightening the animals they rely on for their livelihood.
Leading with Equity: Recommendations for State Decision Makers, Utilities, and Regulators to Advance Energy Equity
Through the Leading with Equity initiative, ACEEE researchers have synthesized perspectives from community-based organizations (CBOs) and advocates to provide recommendations to help decision makers advance an equitable energy future through state- and utility-level action. Communities of color and low-income communities face high energy burdens and barriers to accessing energy efficiency and clean energy services, while experiencing disproportionately high levels of pollution and living in less efficient housing. Providing more robust, accessible energy-saving programs and services to communities of color and low-income communities can address this problem and advance an equitable energy future. Decision makers working in state agencies, utilities, and regulatory bodies can better embed equity in their clean energy programs and policies by implementing recommendations based on the expertise of the communities most impacted by climate change, the energy system, and high energy bills.
DOE launches $10 million prize to accelerate community solar in underrepresented communities
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) today launched a slate of initiatives to support the deployment of equitable community solar projects and recognized projects exemplifying best practices in community solar. Community solar allows any household to access the benefits of renewable energy, with an emphasis on those that cannot access rooftop solar. The Community Power Accelerator™ and its $10 million prize will leverage $5 billion in private-sector financing commitments to help community-based organizations and other mission-aligned project developers access financing and build community solar projects, particularly in disadvantaged and underrepresented communities. The Department is also launching a new campaign to highlight the connections between solar energy and its long-term benefits, beginning with community solar. Community solar will play a vital role in supporting the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 Initiative to ensure that every community benefits from the clean energy transition and in achieving the President’s goals of a 100% electric grid by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Accelerating equitable community solar deployment with the Community Power Accelerator
President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act established tax credits for solar energy projects, including a 20% bonus credit for solar power projects that sell their electricity to low-income households. This tax credit could support up to 18 GW of additional community solar projects over the next 10 years, enough to power over 2.5 million homes. The critical challenge is ensuring that all types of organizations and communities have access to the funds to develop community solar and that the projects deployed deliver “meaningful benefits” to communities and subscribers, like electricity bill savings, community ownership and wealth-building, resilience, equitable workforce development, and low- and moderate-income household access.
Today, DOE’s National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) launched the Community Power Accelerator™ to bring together investors, philanthropic organizations, developers, community-based organizations, and technical experts to work together to get more equitable community solar projects financed and deployed. The Accelerator will support developers with technical assistance and a Learning Lab to build a pipeline of verified, credit-ready projects that will connect with investors seeking to fund community solar in disadvantaged communities. Financial institutions and philanthropic organizations participating in the Accelerator have committed $5 billion in private sector financing for projects that are credit-ready.
The Accelerator includes the following programs:
- The Community Power Accelerator Prize is a new $10 million competition that will provide pre-development funds to organizations to build the expertise, experience, and capacity required to develop community solar projects at scale.
- An online platform, developed by DOE and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, that will enable community-based organizations, intermediaries, and other mission-aligned project developers to connect with investors and philanthropic organizations seeking to fund a more diverse and community-based pipeline of community solar projects.
- A Learning Lab and technical assistance program will prepare community-based organizations, small or new solar developers, and others to develop, finance, and build “credit-ready” community solar projects—projects that are ready for financing.
Recognizing best practices in community solar
During the NCSP Annual Summit, DOE announced the winners of the Sunny Awards for Equitable Community Solar, an awards program that recognizes best practices in community solar projects and programs that increase equitable access and ensure benefits—such as greater household savings, good-paying jobs, and enhanced energy resilience—go to subscribers and their communities.
Five teams were selected for Grand Prize awards. Across the board, these five winners will help households achieve a projected combined total savings of $4.3 million on their energy bills. The projects provide clean energy access for 7,300 low- to moderate-income households and demonstrate best practices in increasing resilience, expanding community ownership, building a more equitable workforce, and leading community engagement.
- Shungnak-Kobuk Community Solar Battery IPP (Shungnak, AK): This solar and battery project led by the Shungnak and Kobuk tribes in the Northwest Arctic Borough region in Alaska aims to stabilize the cost of electricity and allow the communities to take charge of their energy future.
- Faribault Community Solar (Faribault, MN): The Faribault Community Solar project is a cooperatively-owned community solar array serving mostly low-to-moderate income residents in southern Minnesota.
- Community Power: Jobs and Savings for LMI Households (Brooklyn, NY): Community Power delivers energy savings to 500 households, provided workforce training, and offered paid jobs to public housing residents.
- District of Columbia’s Solar for All (Washington, DC): Solar for All is a program designed to reduce electricity bills for households in Washington, DC, through single-family and community solar projects.
- JOE-4-SUN Ashland (Ashland, MA): JOE-4-SUN Ashland is a 6 MW community solar project that saves low-to-moderate income households over $400 per year on electricity costs and brings the benefits of clean, renewable energy to a superfund site.
Connecting the dots on solar energy: Generating power for generations
DOE also launched a new campaign to highlight the many benefits of solar energy to individuals and communities and provide a resource hub so that the public can learn about how solar will positively impact the nation’s future. The Inflation Reduction Act lowers the cost of solar energy for consumers and businesses while creating good paying jobs as deployment and manufacturing capacity grows across the country. Over the next few years, millions of households are expected to join the nearly 4 million American households that have gone solar—either through installing solar on their rooftops or by joining a community solar program. The Connect the Dots on Solar Energy campaign will focus on making connections between solar energy investments and their enduring, long-term benefits.
About the National Community Solar Partnership
NCSP is working to increase community solar installed in the United States to 20 GW, enough to power the equivalent of five million households by 2025 and create $1 billion in energy bill savings to consumers across America. NCSP has over 1,300 partners who leverage peer networks and technical assistance resources to overcome barriers to expanding community solar access.
Learn more about DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office and the National Community Solar Partnership.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy
U.S. EPA announces availability of $100 million through Inflation Reduction Act for Environmental Justice Grants
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced the availability of approximately $100 million for projects that advance environmental justice in underserved and overburdened communities across the country. This funding, made possible through President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, marks the largest amount of environmental justice grant funding ever offered by the Agency. EPA has published two Requests for Applications for this funding through the Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving (EJCPS) Cooperative Agreement Program and the Environmental Justice Government-to-Government (EJG2G) Program.
These grant programs further the goals of President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative and Executive Order, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, which directed that 40% of the overall benefits of certain Federal investments flow to overburdened communities that face disproportionately high and adverse health and environmental impacts.
The Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Program (EJCPS) Cooperative Agreement Program
The EJCPS Program will provide an estimated $30 million in funding directly to community-based nonprofit organizations (and partnerships of these organizations), with $5 million reserved for small community-based nonprofit organizations with five or fewer full-time employees. In total, the Agency anticipates funding approximately 50 awards of $500,000 and 30 awards of $150,000.
EPA’s EJCPS Cooperative Agreement Program provides financial assistance to eligible organizations working on or planning to work on projects to address local environmental and/or public health issues in their communities. The program assists recipients in building collaborative partnerships with other stakeholders (e.g., local businesses and industry, local government, medical service providers, academia, etc.) to develop solutions that will significantly address environmental and/or public health issues at the local level.
The Environmental Justice Government-to-Government (EJG2G) Program
The EJG2G Program (formerly known as the State Environmental Justice Cooperative Agreement program) will provide an estimated $70 million in funding. Of this, $20 million will be for State governments to be used in conjunction with Community-Based Organization (CBO) partners, $20 million will be for local government with CBO partners, $20 million will be for Federally Recognized Tribal Nations with CBO partners, and $10 million will be for U.S. territories and remote tribes with limited access to CBO partners. In total the Agency anticipates funding approximately 70 projects of up to $1 million each for a 3-year project.
The EJG2G Program works to support and/or create model state activities that lead to measurable environmental or public health results in communities disproportionately burdened by environmental harms and risks. These models should leverage or utilize existing resources or assets of state agencies to develop key tools and processes that integrate environmental justice considerations into state governments and government programs.
Under both EJCPS and EJG2G programs, EPA will be giving special consideration to the following focus areas:
- Projects addressing climate change, disaster resiliency, and/or emergency preparedness
- Projects located in and/or benefitting rural areas
- Projects conducting Health Impact Assessments (HIA)
Applicants interested must submit proposal packages on or before April 10, 2023, to be considered for the available funding. Applicants should plan for projects to begin on October 1, 2023.
This funding builds on additional funding from the American Rescue Plan. In December 2021, EPA selected 154 organizations to receive a total of approximately $18.4 million in environmental justice grant funding.
EPA is planning to announce an additional environmental justice grant competition, making extensive use of IRA resources, in early 2023 to establish a network of grant-makers across the United States to facilitate awarding assessment, planning, and project development grants to communities and their partners.
Pre-application Assistance Webinars
EPA will host pre-application assistance webinars to answer prospective applicant questions about the EJ grant process.
- To attend the first webinar on January 24, 2023 focused on EJCPS, register here.
- To attend the second webinar on January 26, 2023 focused on EJG2G, register here.
On Chicago’s South Side, a unique bioenergy project helps fuel community connections
Read the full story at Energy News Network.
A biodigester fueled by food waste in Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood is the centerpiece of a larger development to grow healthy food and economic opportunities.
Why wind energy isn’t living up to its pollution-preventing potential
Read the full story at The Verge.
Wind power isn’t cleaning up as much pollution as it could, especially in communities of color and low-income neighborhoods, new research shows. The US’s wind energy boom has already led to billions of dollars of health benefits. But the majority of that hasn’t trickled into communities that have historically been burdened with the most air pollution, finds a study published today in the journal Science Advances. Fortunately, that could change if new wind energy projects are deployed more strategically.
Supreme Court admissions case could upend environmental justice laws
Read the full story at Stateline.
In recent years, more states have crafted environmental justice policies to help communities of color plagued by polluted air and water, poor health outcomes and limited access to green space.
But now they fear that work could be upended by a pair of pending U.S. Supreme Court cases examining affirmative action admissions policies at universities. If the court strikes down affirmative action, many state lawmakers believe, the ruling could open legal challenges to “race-conscious” laws that seek to help marginalized communities.
Solar coalition wants to put equity front and center in Xcel’s Minnesota rate case
Read the full story at Energy News Network.
The Just Solar Coalition, an alliance of solar developers, community organizers, environmental groups, faith leaders and others interested in expanding access to clean energy, is intervening in the utility’s rate case.
Couleecap launches Solar Energy and Weatherization Pilot Project
Read the full story from the LaCrosse Tribune.
Couleecap has announced a new pilot project to integrate advanced energy conservation technologies, such as solar and air source heat pumps, into existing weatherization programs to further reduce energy costs for low-income households in Wisconsin.
A Couleecap-owned rental property on Eighth Street South in La Crosse is one of two pilot sites. The second pilot site is being identified in partnership with the Monroe County Housing Authority.
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