The Indiana NAACP wants investor-owned utilities in the state to offer community-owned solar programs.
Community-owned solar allows people who would otherwise not be able to afford solar panels on their roof to co-own a solar project. They can then receive credits on their bills for energy generated that they share with other customers.
The Indiana NAACP is working with WeSolar — a Black woman-owned business — to develop community-owned solar projects whose energy can be purchased by utilities.
Barbara Bolling-Williams is the president of the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP. She said these large utilities owe it to the communities the NAACP is trying to assist.
“For years, the communities of color have borne the burden of the power plants being placed in their neighborhoods, in their communities and the pollution that’s generated there," she said.
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Black, Indigenous, people of color, and lower-income Hoosiers also face disproportionately high energy bills and are more likely to suffer from the effects of climate change.
"If utilities buy in, we're going to have the ability to help the most people and hopefully reduce the energy burden for the most number of people," said Naadiya Hutchinson, who does government relations for WeSolar.
Hutchinson said when a community owns their energy source, it can help build the local economy — board members can even decide to use savings on community projects.
“It's all around who's building that generational wealth and we're hoping it's community members instead of some of the larger entities,” she said.
Hutchinson said WeSolar is also looking into grants and low-interest loans to help fund the solar projects.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.