December 14, 2023

Advancing Energy Equity in 2023: Actions and Impacts 

By Seth Mullendore

This has been an impactful year for Clean Energy Group and our partners in advancing energy justice. Clean Energy Group experienced the climate crisis first-hand in July when our Montpelier, Vermont office was shuttered due to heavy rainfall and catastrophic flooding across the state. It took weeks before staff members could safely return to their offices and the town began to look a little less like a disaster zone. After five months, much of the town is still in recovery mode and many businesses may never return, but it has been incredible to see neighbors coming together throughout the crisis and volunteering their time to rebuild the town they call home. The experience has been a reminder of the importance of our mission to enable an equitable, community-led clean energy transformation. 

In 2023, our work focused on four key areas: supporting community-led clean energy solutions, advancing programs to increase clean energy affordability and accessibility, accelerating the pace of fossil fuel retirement and replacement, and countering false solutions endangering the pace of a just transition. 

The following are a few highlights from this work, which is made possible thanks to our many collaborators and the individual donors and philanthropic partners providing financial support. 

Community-led Solutions 

Clean Energy Group provided technical support to local organizations across 14 states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico in 2023, enabling more than 30 communities to complete energy resilience feasibility assessments at 54 trusted, community-serving facilities, including affordable housing, community centers, faith-based institutions, and health clinics. These assessments equip our community partners with the information they need to successfully pursue and develop community-led solar and battery storage projects designed to keep essential services running and available during power outages – projects like the A. B. Ford Park and Community Center in Detroit, MI and the Gleason Family YMCA in Wareham, MA, which joined our growing list of completed alumni installations in 2023. 

Energy Affordability and Accessibility 

More and more states are realizing the importance and societal benefits of incentivizing solar and energy storage in homes and community facilities. Clean Energy Group worked with advocates and state entities in Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington State, and Washington DC to develop and successfully implement solar and storage programs that will lower the cost of ownership and increase installations in low-income and climate vulnerable communities. In Connecticut, we are helping to ensure that multifamily affordable housing properties can take advantage of state incentives, and we recently launched a new initiative to develop a climate resilient energy code for affordable housing properties to help residents safely shelter in place during emergencies. We are working with state agencies and utilities to implement North Carolina’s first residential solar and storage program and to expand the program to provide solar and storage for households dependent on electricity for their medical needs. Clean Energy Group tackled barriers by raising awareness of interconnection bottlenecks preventing more customer-sited energy storage projects from getting built and developed fact sheets to help organizations understand and apply for new federal tax incentives.  

Fossil Fuel Transitions 

We continued to raise awareness of the disproportionate harm that fossil fuel peaker power plants are inflicting on low-income communities and communities of color. This year, Clean Energy Group collaborated with local allies in Boston, Philadelphia, and Detroit to shine a light on the aging, inefficient power plants in those cities that are impacting the health of more than 3 million nearby residents. In partnership with local advocates, Clean Energy Group fought to accelerate the retirement and clean transition of more than 12 gigawatts of dirty peaker plants across New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts

False Solutions 

2023 has been a year of hydrogen hype and carbon capture maneuvering. By providing objective, evidence-based information about the potential harms of hydrogen, particularly blue hydrogen and hydrogen combustion, and carbon capture and storage, Clean Energy Group is serving as a counterbalance to the outpouring of fossil fuel industry support and lobbying to prolong fossil fuel dependence and exacerbate environmental justice harms through the widescale deployment of these expensive technologies. Clean Energy Group raised concerns regarding federal support for false solutions as viable pathways for power plant decarbonization and released a series of white papers to help community members, advocates, and state and municipal leaders make informed decisions about the prospect of proposed hydrogen production facilities and use cases that could be better served by cleaner and more cost-effective forms of electrification and renewable resources. 

As 2023 comes to an end, the Clean Energy Group team is preparing for 2024 with a great deal of excitement. While many daunting challenges and persistent barriers remain, this year witnessed a perceivable shift in how the future of the energy system is being considered. For the first time, in 2024, solar and wind will produce more electricity than coal in the US. Federal incentives will further catalyze growing investments in clean energy. The fossil fuel industry is increasingly on the defensive and grasping at straws to maintain its long-term relevance. There are still pitfalls ahead, and it will take many years to establish a new system that centers community voices and leads with equity. However, it is undeniable that progress has been made this year and will continue to be made next year and in the years to come. 

Photo Credit

Gleason Family YMCA in Wareham, MA. Photo: Phil Angell

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