California’s clean energy economy is taking off, putting Californians to work in good jobs and helping California employment to grow faster than the rest of the U.S. Today over 430,000 Californians work in energy efficiency, solar power and related fields. This tremendous growth is ripe for policies and strategies to promote inclusion and diversity. The clean energy economy already employs a more diverse workforce than traditional energy industries like coal mining. For example, across the U.S., “solar Installation employs 16,000 more Latinos, 4,000 more African-Americans, 5,000 more Asian/Pacific-Islanders and 10,000 more women than the coal mining industry, which is 87% white and male.”
While employment is important, we also need to encourage diversity among businesses in this emerging market. Entrepreneurship is key to the American dream, and all communities should have equal access to business opportunities. Racial and ethnic minorities, disabled veterans, women and the LGBTQ community make up over 75 percent of Californians, and these communities must be fully included in California’s clean energy economy for it to truly soar and continue to spur our state’s economic success.
EMPOWER CALIFORNIA ACT, AB 865
Greenlining sponsored AB 865 (Alejo), the EmPower California Act, enacted in 2015. AB 865 requires that the California Energy Commission create guidelines and an outreach plan to get more diverse businesses involved in the projects it funds.
THE GOOD ECONOMY
We need to make business opportunities abundant and accessible to ethnic businesses, particularly those located in disadvantaged communities, in order to reduce wealth inequality and fight pollution (which hits hardest in communities of color). But these businesses face varied and unique challenges that limit their participation in the clean energy economy.
In response, Greenlining launched a series of convenings and a day of action with ethnic business chambers and associations in California to share information about new contracting opportunities from the state’s environmental initiatives and to learn about the many obstacles ethnic businesses face when competing for publicly funded contracts. We hosted three separate convenings, titled “The Good Economy,” in Fresno, Oakland, and Los Angeles, followed by the Good Economy Day of Action in Sacramento on April 29, 2015. The Day of Action began with a legislative briefing (co-hosted with the Asian & Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, The Legislative Black Caucus, and The Latino Legislative Caucus), followed by a lobby day and roundtable discussion with key administrative agencies and ethnic business leaders.
California is a recognized leader in progressive clean energy policies, climate policies and clean tech innovation. However, many communities in the state still lack access to clean energy resources. As we promote energy innovation, Greenlining works to bring the full benefits of a clean energy economy to our most underserved communities by making equity a key component of the CalSEED Initiative, which we help manage.
CalSEED provides early-stage funding and professional development programs to innovators working to develop clean energy ideas. Greenlining brings a two- part equity strategy to CalSEED: First, we make sure California’s diverse communities participate in the emerging clean energy economy development of clean energy solutions by bringing in applicants from small, woman-owned and diverse-owned businesses as well as from underserved, low-income, LGBTQ, rural and veteran communities. Second, we encourage innovators to develop energy solutions that truly work for our most vulnerable populations. By making sure CalSEED leads with equity, we can bring communities of color to the forefront of clean energy innovation.