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For humans to have a chance of successfully adapting to climate change, it will take everyone getting onboard. This is currently a major stumbling block, in part because economically disadvantaged communities may not have the resources to participate in sustainability efforts — even if they’re eager to do so.

One example is solar power. Installing solar panels on homes and businesses is a boon to energy savings, but the upfront cost of the panels is prohibitive, and utility rebates cover only so much.

For the past two decades, GRID Alternatives has been working to address this gap by creating access to renewable energy. “You shouldn’t have to go into debt to be green,” says Ashley Christy, executive director of GRID Alternative’s Greater Los Angeles office.

The California-based organization maintains eight offices and a tribal program in the United States, as well as an international program that serves Nicaragua, Nepal, and Mexico. Since its founding in 2001, GRID has installed over 17,000 solar systems and trained more than 45,000 installation professionals, with a particular emphasis on jobs for women and people of color.

The group also provides solar-energy education to K–12 students and offers pro­grams to high school ­students to create career paths in the solar industry. GRID partners with community groups to develop shared solar arrays that benefit individual homeowners and ­affordable-housing programs, too.

“As climate change progresses, our reliance on clean energy is going to increase,” says Christy. “We need a workforce that is trained to get us where we need to be, and the technology needs to be available to everyone. Why should a 75-year-old grandmother on a fixed income be considered less worthy of a solar system just because she doesn’t have the $25,000 to invest in one?”

Christy’s ambitious goals include providing solar panels for every house and apartment building and growing the green-energy workforce by hundreds of thousands. She admits that leaving no one without ­access to clean energy is a lofty goal. But it’s the big dreams that sustain the momentum.

“Let’s get to the point where everyone is part of the green economy,” she says. “We all need to be part of the solution, now more than ever.”

Learn more about GRID Alternatives at gridalternatives.org.

This was excerpted from “Climate Champions” which was published in the April 2022 issue of Experience Life magazine.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth Millard

Elizabeth Millard is a writer, editor, and farmer based in northern Minnesota.

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