How Should Solar Respond to the Green New Deal?

By Isaac Baker, President of Development

Building on the long struggles of the environmental, economic, and racial justice movements, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and MA Rep Ed Markey are challenging our elected leaders to commit to a new vision for how we are going to rapidly respond to climate change. This broad framework, called the Green New Deal, is a 10-year plan to transition America to a just, prosperous and sustainable economy. And in doing so, provide a decent paying job to everyone who takes part.

While many Democrats and Republicans are still grappling with the feasibility of aggressive policy demands of the Green New Deal, the important task at hand is to build the base needed to achieve this ambitious goal. That’s why we join in this moment to celebrate a climate platform that is grassroots led and fighting for the urgent demands of the most affected communities.


Four core goals of the Green New Deal include:

  • Achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers

  • Create millions of good, high-wage jobs

  • Invest in the infrastructure and industry of the United States to sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century

  • Promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing the historic oppression of frontline and vulnerable communities

How can we as individuals and as the solar industry be the leaders that this movement calls for? We do not need to wait for congress to pass legislation to start bringing the benefits of clean energy to underserved communities. We can begin immediately to make sure that the transition to clean energy is one that is just and centered around frontline and vulnerable communities. We take on this challenge not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it is already within reach.

Here’s how we propose we get there:


Equity: Increase power within low-income (LI) communities so that they do not continue to be disproportionately left out of the clean energy movement.

  1. Ensure that the social and financial benefits of solar in the Commonwealth are as accessible to low-income residents (<80% state median income) as middle and high-income residents.

  2. Ensure that compensation to LI residents for participating in solar projects is commensurate with their greater exposure to risk, relative to middle and high-income residents.

  3. Increase the visibility of solar jobs by building projects in LI communities, and support local residents’ access to those jobs by supporting solar businesses that serve and hire from LI communities.

Responsiveness: Create a more inclusive strategy to write policy and analyze results.

  1. Use incentive structures to prioritize projects that directly and substantially reduce LI residents’ energy costs.

  2. Ensure that policy is responsive to LI residents’ circumstances by soliciting and incorporating feedback from people who live in LI communities; provide education and compensation as needed to support this process.

  3. Use solar projects as material evidence of LI communities’ inclusion in the transition to clean energy to foster residents’ engagement with the industry.

Efficiency: Let’s tweak the existing market to fully serve the communities that have been left out.  

  1. Empower LI residents to participate directly in the same market as higher income residents; avoid pushing vendors to segregate offerings for low and high-income customers.

  2. Encourage project structures that allow owners of solar projects to allocate value to LI residents without having to recover costs from residents.

  3. Design incentives that remove barriers to LI inclusion, rather than adding new ones through restrictive reporting and qualification requirements (e.g, use environmental justice census tracts to qualify participants rather than R-2 rate class).