The case for buying climate tech from BIPOC and women-owned suppliers

January 18, 2021 by  
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The case for buying climate tech from BIPOC and women-owned suppliers Marilyn Waite Mon, 01/18/2021 – 01:45 Stopping carbon pollution alone will not bring climate justice. Reaching net-zero by 2050 will not either. Neither will achieving 100 percent renewable energy targets. The entire economy is being rebuilt. From electric modes of transportation to climate-smart agriculture, the low-carbon economy creates new roles, companies and workers. It would be regressive if this green economy excluded the very communities disproportionately affected by a changing climate. Moreover, the climate-friendly transition could provide an opportunity to create a more just workforce — one that includes more women and underrepresented people of color at all levels of leadership and ownership. Right now, this opportunity is not so. A 2019 study by the Solar Foundation and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) found that among all senior executives reported by solar firms, 88 percent are white and 80 percent are men. Another report from the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) and the Energy Futures Initiative found that for energy efficiency jobs, women and Black workers substantially lag the national workforce averages. If these trends continue, the low-carbon economy will be just as extractive as its predecessor. Previously, oil and gas companies topped the list of the largest Black-owned enterprises in the U.S. In the 1980s, the largest 10 of these included five energy-related companies , with combined annual sales of about $854 million in 2021 U.S. dollars: Wallace & Wallace; the Vanguard Oil and Service Company; Smith Pipe and Supply Inc.; the Grimes Oil Company; and the Chioke International Corporation. How can the two principal agents in the economy, suppliers and demanders, bring about climate justice? For customers and procurers, one solution is to buy Black. Support women-owned. Go local. That would require an ample supply of green products and services led by women and underrepresented people of color. So where are these suppliers, who are they and what do they have to offer? Historically in the United States, there have been government and corporate procurement programs that support minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs). Many qualifying certification schemes exist, ranging from local to national, and from public, free structures to private, paid third-party structures. The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), founded in Chicago in 1972, certifies minority business enterprises (MBEs) through 23 regional councils across the U.S. The requirements? A company must be at least 51 percent owned and operated by Asian, Black, Hispanic or Native American U.S. citizens. The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), founded in 1997, certifies women-owned businesses in the U.S. To qualify, a business must be 51 percent owned, controlled, operated and managed by a woman or women. Most procurement programs that have minority- and women-led business targets have their own process for verification, making third-party systems a redundant, unnecessary cost burden. While these systems may appear straightforward, they can be troublesome for the business owner. One Black-led cleantech startup was so frustrated with the NMSDC process that the founder gave up — at the time when she applied, NMSDC would not verify her as Black without her parental birth records indicating race. This information can be hard to come by for a whole host of reasons. Relying on 23andMe-style DNA tests also does not seem like a viable option for privacy and other concerns. Another Black founder explained, “Most procurement programs that have minority- and women-led business targets have their own process for verification, making third-party systems a redundant, unnecessary cost burden.” Others find the whole notion outdated, and most importantly for the bottom line, not helpful for attracting and retaining customers. Can a system established about 50 years ago meet the needs of today? After all, a lot has evolved in the marketplace — the digital age coupled with social media has changed the way businesses interact. The investment landscape, which still systemically and systematically denies access to capital to women and underrepresented people of color, also has evolved since the 1970s. As detailed in a report by the Brookings Institute, only 4 percent of the 22.2 million U.S. business owners are Black, and only 1 percent of Black business owners get a loan in their first year of business compared with 7 percent for white business owners. Finally, the democratization of information has led to a certain public accountability that lends itself to favor self-identification of race, ethnicity and gender. Instead of relying on a paywalled list of suppliers, purchasers form relationships with suppliers through “warm lead” business recommendations, industry vertical networks considered more trustworthy given the focus on subject matter expertise, and other avenues, such as the “crowd,” that help vet potential business partners. Many tech-oriented companies prefer equity to debt, and often can only consider equity at the early stages. The need to offer equity to investors often reduces the percentage of the founder’s ownership below the 51 percent threshold. The need to prove a certain race or gender may be less helpful than just using self-identification; today’s social media mechanisms create some accountability. Many procurement programs that seek to improve representation penalize larger MWBEs. The regulations are also set up to force these businesses to remain small, by putting in place revenue caps of as low as $3 million to qualify and by only having programs for MWBE sub-contractors, as opposed to prime contractors . Perhaps one way forward is to align with the times, where the ecosystem of capital and access to information has evolved. That is, make visible and uplift the MWBEs leading the clean transition, make the list of founders and senior executives open-access, provide early-stage capital (debt, equity, revenue share, non-dilutive grants) for both small and midsize enterprises and high-growth tech startups alike, strategically partner with MWBEs on projects, and remove the red tape that exists in procurement programs to keep underrepresented MWBEs in a subordinate and small position. On the latter point, the wish list for Black women cleantech founders that I spoke to include allowing for more flexibility around equity ownership (51 percent may be too onerous, especially for VC-backed startups), raising revenue caps (let’s say to $100 million), including sustainability and clean energy carve-outs in procurement, and moving away from third-party certification to decide who is a woman and who is a racial or ethnic minority. Black Owners of Solar Services ( BOSS ) is an organization set up to support smart policies that bring about climate justice in the U.S. Below is a list of Black-led companies, both small and midsize enterprises and startups, that are leading the low-carbon transition. Although not as robust as this list , for customers and procurers, this is where you can start. Senior Executive/CEO/Founder    Specialty Company Etosha Cave, Founder and CSO Carbon Economy Opus 12 Lisa Dyson,  Founder and CEO Carbon Economy Kiverdi Donna Sanders, Founder and CEO Energy Efficiency and Buildings Virimodo Donnel Baird, Founder Energy Efficiency and Buildings BlocPower SaLisa Berrien, CEO and Founder Energy Efficiency and Buildings COI Energy Ugwem Eneyo, Co-founder Energy Efficiency and Buildings SHYFT Power Solutions Ajulo E. Othow, Founder and CEO Solar Energy EnerWealth Solutions Dana Clare Redden, Founder Solar Energy Solar Stewards Gilbert Campbell and Antonio Francis, Co-founders Solar Energy Volt Energy Jessica O. Matthews, Co-founder and CEO Solar Energy Uncharted Power Jessica Newton, Founder and CEO Solar Energy OBIPower Ken Wells, CEO Solar Energy O&M Solar Services Kristal Hansley, Founder Solar Energy WeSolar Mark Davis, Founder and President Solar Energy WDC Solar Mina McCullom, President and CEO Solar Energy SynEnergy Monique Dyers, Founder and Managing Principal Solar Energy Ensight Energy Nicole Poindexter, Co-founder and CEO Solar Energy Energicity Rob Wallace, Co-founder and CEO Solar Energy Power52 Salma Okonkwo, CEO Solar Energy Blue Power Energy Kellee James, Founder and CEO Sustainable Agriculture Mercaris Nemo Semret, Sara Menker and Sewit Ahderom, Co-founders Sustainable Agriculture Gro Intelligence Tinia Pina, Founder and CEO Sustainable Agriculture Re-Nuble Zuleyka Strasner, Founder Sustainable Agriculture Zero Grocery Pull Quote Most procurement programs that have minority- and women-led business targets have their own process for verification, making third-party systems a redundant, unnecessary cost burden. Topics Social Justice Racial Justice Corporate Procurement Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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The case for buying climate tech from BIPOC and women-owned suppliers

Careers in Solar Energy

January 21, 2020 by  
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The solar energy industry is booming across the United States … The post Careers in Solar Energy appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Careers in Solar Energy

4 Trends in Solar Energy for 2020

December 24, 2019 by  
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There is now enough installed solar energy capacity in the … The post 4 Trends in Solar Energy for 2020 appeared first on Earth911.com.

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How to Compare Solar Energy Bids & Select a Solar Installer

September 2, 2019 by  
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More home and business owners are installing solar panels than … The post How to Compare Solar Energy Bids & Select a Solar Installer appeared first on Earth911.com.

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How to Compare Solar Energy Bids & Select a Solar Installer

Climate solutions depend on rare earths. Here’s how they can be sourced responsibly

February 21, 2019 by  
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These elements are necessary for solar energy, wind energy and electric vehicles — and so is the way we secure them.

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Climate solutions depend on rare earths. Here’s how they can be sourced responsibly

2018’s Most Efficient Solar Panels

May 30, 2018 by  
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As solar energy technology progresses at a rapid pace, there’s … The post 2018’s Most Efficient Solar Panels appeared first on Earth911.com.

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2018’s Most Efficient Solar Panels

Solar Energy Batteries on the Rise

May 17, 2018 by  
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As the cost of batteries for solar energy drops and … The post Solar Energy Batteries on the Rise appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Solar Energy Batteries on the Rise

The Earth911.com Quiz #11: News Quiz!

May 17, 2018 by  
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Making smart sustainable choices requires practice. Earth911’s twice-weekly sustainability quiz … The post The Earth911.com Quiz #11: News Quiz! appeared first on Earth911.com.

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The Earth911.com Quiz #11: News Quiz!

California is about to be the first US state to require solar power on new homes

May 7, 2018 by  
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California is taking a huge step forward in clean energy this week, as the state is expected to require solar energy for just about all new homes, The Orange County Register reported . The California Energy Commission is slated to vote this Wednesday on new standards mandating almost all new houses be equipped with solar panels , beginning in 2020, and it’s expected they’ll approve the move. The Golden State “is about to take a quantum leap in energy standards,” according to California Building Industry Association technical director Bob Raymer. If approved, the solar mandate would cover all houses, apartments, and condominiums as high as three stories obtaining building permits after January 1, 2020, according to The Orange County Register. There could be alternatives or exceptions allowed for structures shaded by other buildings or trees, or if a roof is too small to allow for solar panels. The new provisions would offer compliance credits for builders who install batteries like Tesla’s Powerwall , allowing them to cut the size of solar systems. Homes won’t need to reach true net zero status under these standards, according to The Orange County Register. Related: San Francisco approves measure to require solar panels on new buildings Compared against a 2006 code, these new standards would add around $25,000 to $30,000 to construction costs, according to Meritage Homes ‘ vice president of environmental affairs C.R. Herro speaking to The Orange County Register. $14,000 to $16,000 of that would go to solar; $10,000 to $15,000 would go to increased insulation and appliances, windows, heating, and lighting that is more efficient . Herro said the $25,000 to $30,000 would lead to $50,000 to $60,000 in reduced operating costs during the home solar power system’s 25-year lifespan. Homebuilder and former Orange County Building Industry Association president Bill Watt told The Orange County Register the added costs could mean home prices are too high for many buyers, saying, “We’re not building enough housing already. Why not just pause for a little while, focus on the affordability and housing issues , then circle back?” Sierra Club California director Kathryn Phillips told The Orange County Register, “The technology is developing so fast, we think the timeline was a bit slow.” Via The Orange County Register Images via Pixabay and U.S. Air Force photo by Kenji Thuloweit

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The cost of high-efficiency solar panels fell 37% in 2017

February 22, 2018 by  
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In 2017, the price for high-efficiency solar panels dropped from 72¢/W to 45¢/W, representing a 37 percent decline in cost. The falling price point is driven by several factors, including American consumer demand for higher solar efficiency to compensate for the higher-than-average energy consumption of the average American, as well as Chinese state investment in high-efficiency solar panel production. The shift is also a result of technological change as poly crystalline solar panels switch to mono crystalline, which are at least 10 percent more efficient while only 6 percent more expensive. Meanwhile, the price continues to drop. The primary difference between mono and poly solar panels is the structure by which silicon is shaped and molded into the panel. In mono crystalline solar panels, silicon is formed into bars, then cut into wafers, whereas poly crystalline solar panels are melted together to form wafers. The process to create mono solar panels was invented in 1918. As a result, the earliest solar panels were of the mono crystalline design. However, during an oil crisis-induced burst of solar energy research in the 1970s, an Exxon researcher discovered that poly panels could be manufactured more cheaply. Related: All-female high school team invents solar-powered tent for homeless As we are seeing in the greater efficiency and steady decline in cost for mono panels as of late, the cheap manufacturing of poly had its own hidden costs. As 2018 rolls along, some analysts are predicting that this may be the year in which mono crystalline solar panels make up the majority of solar panels manufactured worldwide. The rapidly declining cost of solar energy , even in the face of resistance by the United States government , demonstrates the possibility that a rapid transition to renewable energy may not be as far-fetched as current reality may make it seem. Via Electrek Images via Depositphotos and EIA

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