Challenging Distortions about Low-Income Communities and Solar

By John Baldwin on April 14, 2015

The Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) blog published a very important post about the lengths to which some people will go to distort the truth about solar. This is particularly the case as solar opponents create a false “low income vs. clean energy” narrative. Entitled “Clean, Distributed Energy Can Benefit Low-Income Families,” the post’s authors not only make a strong case for the benefits of clean energy to financially-challenged communities, but severely criticize an industry group for arguing otherwise.

That group goes unnamed in the post, but a link provided to another article reveals its name: the Edison Electric Institute, or EEI. Describing itself as the “association that represents all U.S. investor-owned electric companies,” the EEI strongly opposes net metering. But the EDF authors conclude that this organization’s position is motivated not by a concern for ratepayer’s costs, but for the profits of the utilities that belong to it. However, the EEI has been reaching out to African-American policymakers, specifically the National Policy Alliance, a group that includes the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Conference of Black Mayors, apparently with some success.

In the EDF’s post, the authors point out solar’s numerous benefits to low-income individuals and communities, as solar adoption can “create savings and minimize costs, drive local living-wage jobs, and improve environmental outcomes for low-income communities.” The last-named benefit is particularly important, as the authors report that “68 percent of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant (with similarly large numbers for Latinos) and a recent study claims that nearly 40 percent of communities of color breathe polluted air.” So the savings on health care costs alone make choosing solar power over fossil fuels a bargain for low-income communities.

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