Environment

SunPower Increasing Clean Energy Access To Historically Marginalized Communities

SunPower has launched a new program, SunPower 25X25, which is aimed at increasing clean, renewable energy access in historically marginalized communities. Notably, whether inspired by it or just coincidental (I’d guess the former), this lines up perfectly with a new initiative from the Biden administration — the Justice40 Initiative.

Aside from bringing cheap and clean electricity to communities that have typically been ignored and forgotten, and the jobs that come with this distributed energy solution, it’s worth noting that this also expands SunPower’s market, bringing in new buyers.

The company writes that “its new justice, diversity, equity and inclusion (JDE&I) commitments designed to ensure the resiliency and economic benefits of distributed solar and battery storage serve American families, job-seekers and businesses that have been historically marginalized. The commitments include ambitious targets with initiatives to achieve them by 2025 — spanning workforce diversity, solar access expansion and dealer diversity programs.”

So, getting past the fluffy, happy talk, what are those targets? This is what SunPower wants to achieve by 2025:

  • 40% of its workforce represented by women; 25% of its workforce represented by Black and Hispanic/Latinx people
    • Emphasis will be placed on workforce development programs for the company’s growing residential installation teams across the country.
  • 25% of its U.S. residential customers made up by people who live in historically marginalized communities
    • Includes the development of a new program to provide low-income customers with no interest loans.
  • 25% of the dealers and subcontractors it works with owned by women and people of color
    • Includes establishment of a new dealer diversity program and creation of new partnerships with minority-owned business organizations.

As noted above, this lines up with Biden’s Justice40 Initiative. The Justice40 Initiative came out of an executive order signed by Biden in January 2021. “The order creates a government-wide Justice40 Initiative with the goal of delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments to disadvantaged communities and tracks performance toward that goal through the establishment of an Environmental Justice Scorecard,” the White House wrote at the time.

“The order initiates the development of a Climate and Environmental Justice Screening Tool, building off EPA’s EJSCREEN, to identify disadvantaged communities, support the Justice40 Initiative, and inform equitable decision making across the federal government”

Later on, in July, the Biden administration’s Shalanda Young, Brenda Mallory, and Gina McCarthy wrote:

“Today, we are taking a key step toward achieving the President’s ambitious goal and issuing interim guidance that will help Federal agencies deliver on the Justice40 Initiative.

“The interim guidance issued today by the Office of Management and Budget, the Council on Environmental Quality, and the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy introduces measures to guide agencies on their path to implementing Justice40, launches the Justice40 Pilot Program, and includes accountability and transparency tools to ensure agencies are working to reach the Justice40 goal.

“The pilot identifies 21 priority programs to immediately begin enhancing benefits for disadvantaged communities. These priority programs will provide a blueprint for other agencies to help inform their work to implement the Justice40 Initiative across government.”

Note that part of that July announcement — one of the 21 priority programs — was the Rural Energy for America Program, “which provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements.” So, expect to see more solar in rural America when you’re there, in addition to growing clean energy access in marginalized urban communities.

SunPower notes that its new SunPower 25X25 program also helps the company to work toward its broader “diversity pledge.” SunPower “will report progress annually in its Environmental, Social and Governance report.”

“Black professionals working in solar services have roots, relationships and experience in all communities, particularly those disproportionately impacted by climate change. If the solar industry is going to provide renewable energy access and equitable job opportunities, actively engaging black owned businesses is vital,” said Walter McLeod, founding board member of Black Owners of Solar Services. “We commend SunPower for committing to creating an intentionally diverse dealer and subcontractor network and raising the bar for others in the industry to do the same.”

“Distributed solar and battery storage offer tremendous benefit to our environment, are vital in building a resilient energy infrastructure, can provide lower-cost electricity, and create good, well-paying jobs,” Peter Faricy, CEO of SunPower, added. “We must use this moment-in-time to ensure the rapid deployment of this critical technology benefits all Americans.”

If you’re used to seen Tom Werner make such statements and confused about where Peter Faricy came from, note that in March Werner stepped down from the CEO role after 18 years and passed on the duties to Faricy, who was formerly CEO of Global Direct-to-Consumer for Discovery, Inc., and spent 13 years at Amazon, including as VP of the Amazon Marketplace. “Under Faricy’s leadership, Amazon disrupted the digital sales channel, helping millions of small businesses sell their products directly to Amazon customers,” SunPower wrote in an announcement.

 

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