Green Justice Coalition Pushes “Solar For All” in Massachusetts with MA Black and Latino Legislative Caucus

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

BOSTON – Renters and low-income communities can benefit from solar energy, but state policies are standing in the way. That’s why the Green Justice Coalition, a grouping of community organizations, environmental advocates and labor unions convened by Community Labor United, is pushing for legislation (H. 3396 / S. 1831) to ensure all residents of the state can benefit from the green economy.

The Solar Access for All bill, filed by Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Jamaica Plain), Rep. Russell Holmes (D-Mattapan) and Rep. Michelle Dubois (D-Brockton) would ensure low-income communities and renters are fairly compensated for solar energy, create a dedicated incentive for low-income and community solar projects, lift the solar net metering cap to allow for more community solar projects to be developed and direct the Department of Energy Resources to plan for multi-lingual promotion of its clean energy programs.

“We know that our efforts to combat climate change and promote economic justice have always been tied,” said Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz, Vice-Chair of the MA Black and Latino Legislative Caucus. “This bill eliminates barriers currently facing renters, communities of color, and people of modest means who want to access clean energy options. It ensures that we use climate solutions to narrow the income gap, instead of widening it.”

"Climate change is here, and is killing our communities. People of color here, and people in the global south, suffer the most,” said Andrea Nyamekye of Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts. “It is crucial and urgent that Massachusetts leads in renewable energy, and makes sure that low-to-moderate income communities and our communities of color are having access to renewables, and are at the center of the rising green economy."

"Communities of color want access to renewable energy in order to prevent more devastation caused by climate change both at home and abroad," said Richard Juang, staff attorney for Alternatives for Community & Environment of Roxbury, MA. "Current policies that stop the expansion of solar energy by low-income communities and renters disenfranchise us at the very moment when we could be making a substantial contribution to the fight against climate change."

Last year, a policy change that reduced payments for solar energy sent back to the power grid nearly tanked an interfaith solar project in Boston. The project, which was intended to give free energy to low-income residents in the area, was forced to scale back to serve only the church property. Other low-income projects in Central and Western Massachusetts are currently stalled due a cap on solar.

"I've had conversations with our Portuguese and Cape Verdean creole -speaking community members, many of who are renters," said Maria Fortes, organizer with the Coalition for Social Justice. "We hear how important renewable energy is to people in our community, but it needs to be made accessible and affordable. This bill takes care of those needs." 

“We should be using clean energy to fight inequality, and we can,” said Joel Wool of Clean Water Action. “But to advance energy justice in Massachusetts, we need policies that promote solar access for all residents of our communities.”

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The Green Justice Coalition is partnership of community groups, labor unions, environmental organizations and other allied organizations to build a broad-based constituency in support of a sustainable, equitable, and clean energy economy in Massachusetts. We are dedicated to ensuring that our region’s growing green economy will create quality jobs, local workforce development opportunities and create healthier and safer communities. In particular, low-income communities and communities of color have been overburdened by our unsustainable economy. We therefore want to ensure that these communities are at the forefront of the growing green, sustainable economy.

Joel Wool
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