Inside E&E News

D.C. leaders of environmental and social justice, workforce diversity

E&E News has covered the energy and environment space for more than 20 years. We have written many stories about how those most affected by environmental pollution are also the least able to take advantage of clean energy solutions.

That is beginning to change. Communities are demanding that the environmental and health impact of energy choices be taken into account and offset. The environmental advocacy movement is recognizing that diversity in leadership and input is critical for success. The energy industry needs a new generation of workers and is expanding its training outreach. And organizations like GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic is making sure the transformation to clean energy is a success story for everyone.

There is still a long way to go. As a news organization committed to increasing our own staff diversity and the diversity of journalism as a whole, we appreciate and support those working on these issues. Toward that end, we are excited to be a media sponsor of the GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic Solar Soiree, where the organization on its fifth anniversary will honor local champions of environmental justice, social justice and workforce diversity.

Honorees include environmental and social justice champions Dr. Mustafa Santiago Ali of the National Wildlife Federation and Mary M. Cheh of the D.C. Council. Andy Shallal, the founder and CEO of Busboys and Poets, will also be honored for his accomplishments as a workforce diversity champion. The event, including live musical performances, will take place Sept. 19 (find more information and tickets here).

Since it was founded in 2014, GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic has installed 251 solar energy systems in the region at no cost to clients and has provided more than $7.4 million in energy savings for low- and moderate-income residents, according to the organization. This has eliminated greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing 9,766 cars from the road for one year, GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic says.

The company provides not just solar energy but solar jobs for low-income people - or anyone who wants to find a foothold in the industry, including women, another underrepresented group in the field.

It has provided job training to 859 individuals in the D.C. metro area alone over the past five years. (GRID Alternatives also has affiliates in California, Colorado and Nicaragua.) Trainees who complete the curriculum exit with CPR and federal safety certifications, and GRID Alternatives helps them find jobs – including some at the company itself.

I was fortunate enough to take part in one of GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic's early installations as a volunteer when I was a reporter. (Read the story.)

What I saw was not just technical training but life skills training. Confidence training. An opportunity for many people of different worlds, outlooks and beliefs coming together in one place to exchange smiles and experiences as the volunteers, trainees and GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic's leaders worked together. Oh, and also do some good for the environment and the community.

Something to celebrate, indeed.

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