By Hannah McCurdy, A/G Summer 2018 Intern
This summer, Argento/Graham volunteered and installed a 3 kW rooftop solar photovolatic array on a family’s home in Whittier, California as part of GRID Alternative’s Energy for All program. When our team of volunteers from A/G, Brightworks Sustainability, and All About Waste arrived at the home, we were greeted by GRID team leaders who led us through a warm up exercise and a safety training. Wearing hard hats and safety gear, each team member had the opportunity to work on the roof, drilling, sawing, and installing panels. It was hot out there with temperatures in the high 90s, but it was fun for consultants like us to do the actual labor and installation on a construction site.
The Energy for All program provides no cost solar panels and installations for low income single family houses and no cost technical assistance for multi-unit affordable housing units and community solar projects that serve people most burdened by energy utilities. Effects of climate change disproportionately affect communities of color and under-resourced, low-income communities. Homes in low income neighborhoods are more likely to have less efficient energy systems due to lack of maintenance, weatherization, and inefficient existing housing stock. This leads to higher utility bills and a greater environmental impact. Inefficient energy systems contribute to the cycle of poverty as people cannot afford increasingly expensive utility bills and are forced to forego other necessities to pay utility bills. According to the Institute for Policy Studies, on average in the United States, low income households spend 8.8% of their annual income on electricity while the overall average is 2.9% of annual income. Reducing environmental impact from coal-powered electricity and using solar energy is not only a cleaner energy source, but improves air quality, thus reducing asthma and other respiratory problems. Improving energy systems combats health related problems and lowers risk of chronic diseases that disproportionately affect low income communities as a result of climate change. Climate justice should be a primary objective of all environmentalists and environmental sustainability should not be limited to wealthy communities.
The Energy for All Program is not the only program at GRID Alternatives that seeks to accomplish sustainable energy equity and helps marginalized communities transition to clean energy. GRID’s Workforce Development Program offers workplace experience in all aspects of solar installation, with a commitment to highlighting and encouraging women and people of color. We worked with Darean, who is involved with Solar Corps, a GRID partnership with Americorps. He became involved with Homeboy Industries after 20-years of incarceration and found his calling-- helping the environment, serving his community, and doing fulfilling work. Homeboy Industries, a non-profit dedicated to reducing recidivism among previously incarcerated men and women and gang rehabilitation, partners with GRID Los Angeles’ workforce training program. Overall, it was a great team building event, a wonderful opportunity to spend time with our colleagues, and most importantly to bring this resource to the family in Whittier. A/G looks forward to continuing to support GRID and their mission and we encourage everyone to check out their organization and consider bringing your company out to sponsor a build.