Authors: Ronald Bethea and Will R. Shirley  Published: 9/11/2020   National Association of Blacks In Solar  T/A  Blacks In Solar






Tue Sep 29, 2020 1pm – 3pm Eastern Standard Time 


The current coronavirus crisis has destroyed millions of American jobs, including hundreds of thousands in clean energy. As Congress,  in the first week of July, started deliberating and debating economic stimulus support for the energy industry, a new analysis of unemployment data showed the biggest part of America’s energy economy – clean energy – lost another 27,000 jobs in May, bringing the total number of clean energy workers who have lost their jobs in the past three months to more than 620,500. It has exacerbated historic environmental injustices. And with all this, we need millions of construction jobs, skilled trades, and engineering workers to build a new American infrastructure and clean energy economy. These jobs will create pathways for young people and for older workers shifting to new professions, and for people from all backgrounds and all communities.

A recent press release by the Biden Campaign is titled, “THE BIDEN PLAN TO BUILD A MODERN, SUSTAINABLE INFRASTRUCTURE AND AN EQUITABLE CLEAN ENERGY FUTURE”. If Biden is elected in November, his administration will make a $2 trillion accelerated investment, with a plan to deploy those resources over his first term, setting us on an irreversible course to meet the ambitious climate progress that science demands, along with the following developments:

1. The cost of shifting the U.S. power grid to 100 percent renewable energy over the next 10 years is an estimated $4.5 trillion, according to a new Wood Mackenzie analysis.

2. Amazon Launches U.S $2.  Billion Climate Pledge Fund Amid Reputation Crisis

3. Microsoft’s New Environmental Sustainability Initiative and $1 billion Climate Innovation Fund, along with Sol Systems and Microsoft, Working Together on Portfolio of 500 megawatts of U.S. Solar Project, and Investments in Communities on the Front Lines of Climate Change.

4. Chicago Launches $200 million RFP to Power City Facilities by Renewable Energy

5. New York’s $701 Million Program for EV Charging, By the Numbers

6. Wells Fargo makes a $200 billion Sustainable Finance Commitment through 2030, with at least 50% going toward renewable energy and clean technology projects. Wells Fargo also provides $5 million in seed funding to create the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund with the nonprofit, GRID Alternatives, to support solar projects in tribal communities.

7. Wells Fargo announces a renewable energy transaction that will power 400 Wells Fargo properties in Texas from a new utility-scale solar installation in the state.

8. With commitments of  160 cities, more than ten counties, and eight states across the U.S. have goals to power their communities with 100% clean, renewable energy in total. Over 100 million people now live in a community with an official 100% renewable electricity target.

9. Thirty-six years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court examined a toenail on this question—answering it mostly negatively.   In  1976 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) vs Federal Commission 425, US 662 1976 (“FPC,” FERC’s predecessor) to issue a rule prohibiting utilities from discriminating against their employees based on race. Their proposed rule would have required the Commission to “(a) enumerate unlawful employment practices; (b) require regulates to establish a written program for equal employment opportunity, which would be filed with the Commission; and (c) provide for individual employees to file discrimination complaints directly with the Commission” (as summarized in Chief Justice Burger’s concurring opinion). Citing the Federal Power Act and Natural Gas Act, the NAACP argued that (a) the FPC’s substantive statutes declare the businesses of selling electricity and natural gas to be “affected with a public interest,” and (b) racial discrimination by utilities conflicts with the public interest.  The FPC therefore was both authorized and obligated to bar racial discrimination by its licensees.

The question becomes where is the Green Economic Development Plan for Black America? Many of our southern states are regulated markets, with no  public policy and legislation. The lack of Renewable Energy Standards in many of our southern states make many of the large-scale megawatt solar projects non bankable for solar companies. This was recently the case for Will R. Shirley, E.M.Sc. President/CEO Sundial Solar Power Developers, Inc. of Jackson, Mississippi, the only African American owned solar company in the state of Mississippi. In a recent letter to his solar farm clients, he communicated the following:

“Dear Sir: Sundial Solar Power Developers, Inc. (Sundial Solar), has, over the last 3 years, experienced serious setbacks, and roadblocks in getting projects like yours off the ground. In your case Sundial Solar has explored every way possible to make your project a bankable endeavor; however, your family and other families like yours are being shut out of a 25-year, generational economic opportunity. In our estimation, the main cause of these setbacks and roadblocks is the lack of Renewable Energy Standards in the State of Mississippi. As a result of Sundial Solar’s efforts to service Mississippi landowners like you, we can deliver anecdotal evidence that families like yours have been denied several hundreds of thousands of dollars based on unfair and immoral state policy that economically discriminates against Mississippi landowners”.

This is not just a Mississippi problem, but this is a national problem in regulated markets. This is not an issue for African American Solar design, installation, and workforce development companies but all companies doing business in the United States.

Looking at the data recently put out by the 2019 Solar Foundation Diversity, we have a little over 9,000 solar companies doing business in the United States. But we have been able to confirm only less than 20 African American Solar companies doing business in the United States.

The South, Southwest, East Coast, and major cities and urban markets across the United States where the large percentage of the African American population reside, makes it almost impossible to increase market share for African Solar Design, Installation, and Work Force Development companies to increase their market share.

When we take a look at the Solar Foundation’s 2019 U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study, the diversity shortfall is not unique to the solar industry. The Government Accountability Office found that as of 2015, women represent only 22% of the technology workforce and African American workers represent only 7%, figures that remained virtually unchanged over a decade (See Below).

As we look at third-party recruiters which are independent recruiters contracted by solar companies to uncover, vet, and hire, the question is how many of the third-party recruiters are African American companies contracted to look for talent from our HBCUs.

When we also take a closer look at upstream solar firms that engage in manufacturing, sales and distribution activities, other solar firms provide finance, legal services, research, advocacy, and not-for-profit education activities. The African American presence in these areas is nonexistent, after 12 years of the solar industry being the fasted growing industry for job growth in United States.

 The Case for a National Organization that Supports Solar in our Neighborhoods

National statistics concerning black people in the solar industry are disappointing as we can see on the following charts (please click to enlarge.)



In the above chart we can see that Black solar worker demographics do not even compete with Latino demographics (please click to enlarge).


Our concern is that we need to prepare our people for full participation in the New Renewable Energy Economy Revolution. If we do not ORGANIZE NOW, our future in the renewable solar energy economy will continue to be relegated to the Consumer Class with low ownership positions and exceptionally low economic benefit for our schools, HBCUs, municipalities, counties, and businesses.

There are many more specific problems that the black owned solar companies face nationwide. These more specific problems can only be addressed and only be solved by a nationally structured, systematic 25-year plan to alleviate solar discrimination and injustices that are prevalent in the solar industry today.

The list of disparities, when it comes to national, state, and local solar policy development for the black community, is unacceptable going forward into the 21st century. Aside from the challenges listed above, below is a list of specific on-going problems that cannot and will not be addressed by the status quo.

  1. The list of the “solar uninformed” in the Black community includes: K-12 school administrators, Black business leaders (small and large), HBCU presidents, Black mayors, Black county supervisors and administrators, and non-profit leaders.
  2. No HBCU strategy exists that will produce new solar business owners, HBCU student solar associations, 25 years of electric utility savings, thereby creating a savings fund (or similar approach) that can be utilized to help address the priority financial issues of each HBCU.
  3. No concerted strategy that re-focuses Workforce Development resources in Black communities. There is no mechanism that associates workforce development dollars in Black communities to solar job training for young black men and women. Question – with no concerted strategy in the black community, how can black solar professionals be created, thrive, and fully participate in the world’s fastest growing industry?
  4. No “Solar-Based Economic Development” strategies exist that deliver effective, long-term solar policies for the Black community. Just as in the case of “Technology-Based Economic Development” that changed the process of how industries, governments, and communities used technology prosper, so can “Solar-Based Economic Development” change the process of how Black communities, governments, educational entities, and businesses can begin to develop strategies that will produce short and long-term economic benefits. If the status quo remains in place for the next 10 years, Black people in America will be totally shut out of the economic benefit, prosperity and affluence that is being realized by others in the solar industry. We as Black people need to use solar power as an economic development tool that will drive high paying jobs in the new green economy
  5.  No targeted job training exists in America that focuses on preparing young Black men and women for careers in the solar industry. As one can see, national solar workforce numbers reveal an unsustainable future. Black owned solar companies in America represent a disappointing percentage of the total amount of solar companies in business.  This percentage reflects badly on black participation in solar from an ownership position in the world’s fastest growing industry. This number also reflects badly on future generational participation in the industry. (National Association of Blacks in Solar Initial Organizing Document July 2020)
  6.  No “means of production” of solar equipment exists in the Black community. When the world is going solar, how is it that there is not one single solar panel manufacturing company, owned by a consortium of Black owners, that can produce full panels or sub-panel components
  7.  Black owned solar companies face a double whammy when it comes to supply chain issues – first, no Black means of production exists (mentioned above) and no purchasing coop/organization is in place that can negotiate pricing on large scale solar panel purchases for Black owned solar companies. Most economists recognize the power of group purchasing opportunities. If the few Black owned solar companies that exist today had an opportunity to buy solar panels at deep discounts via co-op purchasing agreements, great advances could be made in the supply chain that favorably addresses a growing black-owned solar company population in America.
  8.  No national solar consultancy exists to support black institutions in America in realizing the prospects of “Solar-Based Economic Development”. NABS will address this serious issue by establishing a process for evaluating social, political, economic environments and priorities in the development of an individualized long-term solar strategy for HBCUs, Black municipalities, Black county governments, the Black business community, and Black non-profits.


HBCU Five- Year Green Economic Development Sustainability Plan

 Ronald Bethea, President and Founder of Positive Change Purchasing Cooperative LLC. Our cooperative is presently serving as advocate, marketing and funding raising and research. Our organization, working with Lilia Abron, Ph. D, P.E., BCEE President PEER Consultants, has developed an HBCU Five-Year Green Economic Development Sustainability Plan.

This power point presentation is an action plan template drawn up by PEER to serve as a starting plan for colleges and universities interested in making their campuses more sustainable. Please understand the goals, actions, and measures within this sustainability plan are tentative and can be tailored specifically to meet the needs of college and universities after their input. Goals are as follows:

  • To provide a blueprint for economic self-reliance for the solar and renewal energy companies both large and small, along with increasing market share for African American Solar design, installation, and workforce development companies.
  • To address the economic effect of high energy cost for HBCUS.
  • To utilize Black American owned farmlands and HBCU campuses to develop capacity and initiatives for solar installation projects to bring down the numbers of unemployment, under employed young black men and women.
  • Educating the black community locally and nationally about the economic impacts of climate change and the need for environmental education in the black community through black talk radio programs such as “Solar Now and The Future with Its Economic Impact on Black America”.

The proposed National Association of Blacks in Solar shall be organized based on the premise that the Black Community, in every state of the union, is being left out of major solar policy decisions that concern the specific needs of the Black community. NABS will be organized to fill these policy gaps in national, state, and local solar policy development. These problems persist and will continue to persist unless there is a nationally based organizational structure created that can start the process of rectifying the problems listed above. Again, there exist NO Solar Policy Initiatives that support any of our black institutions in a sustainable, long-term basis – the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BLACKS IN SOLAR will begin the process of delivering effective solar planning, policy development and policy implementation for our people.

Charter members of National Association of Blacks in Solar:

Positive Change Purchasing Cooperative       w:


PEER Consultants, P.C.W: