Sunwealth®, a Boston-based clean energy investment firm, envisions a future where equitable pathways to clean energy exists for everyone, and communities can share in the benefit of renewable energy. As part of a new partnership, Sunwealth’s Community Solar Program provides clean energy and cost-savings opportunities for our shelter programs and Heading Home families transitioning into permanent housing.
Interested in learning more about our partnership? We recently caught up with Sunwealth®’s Community Solar Manager, Jacob Naimark:
Q: What is Community Solar?
Community Solar is an opportunity to democratize clean energy. For the estimated 77% of U.S. households unable to put solar panels on their own rooftops—including renters, people with low credit scores, and homeowners with shaded roofs—supporting clean energy and benefiting from its savings, it may seem unrealistic. However, Community Solar makes the switch to clean energy accessible and hassle-free by allowing households to purchase electricity generated by solar panels located somewhere else. Each household receives clean energy produced by a portion of a large system of solar panels, benefiting from discounted electricity while supporting the clean energy economy.
Q: Why Heading Home?
Heading Home’s work epitomizes equity and empowerment. Through a diverse approach to serving those struggling with houselessness, Heading Home provides both a lending hand in the direst situations and a long-term vision to equip individuals with the tools they need to achieve housing stability and independence.
Heading Home’s approach of providing services to those with the greatest need aligns with Community Solar values, which asserts that neither income-level nor demographic identity should presuppose an individual’s ability to support and benefit from the transition to a more livable world.
Q: Why is a program like this critical to helping bring equitable access to the “Green Economy?”
The consequences of climate change stretch to every corner of the world and are often felt most acutely in economically marginalized communities and regions. It is essential that such communities can engage with the “Green Economy” for two primary reasons:
1.) Global challenges require global solutions. The only robust environmental solutions are those that are far-reaching. If clean energy is reserved for only those with surplus finances and a particular affinity for green technology, the solutions will not stretch wide enough nor deep enough to effect meaningful change.
2.) It is a moral imperative to ensure that those who most endure environmental damages are afforded access to solutions that alleviate these challenges. These communities not only require relief from the harms of pollution and climate change but also offer a perspective on the urgency of action that is crucial in catalyzing a “Green Economy.”
Q: Can you describe the two layers of partnership in your own words that we are working on together?
The Heading Home-Sunwealth Community Solar partnership involves a two-pronged approach that mirrors Heading Home’s prioritization of both emergency intervention and long-term stability.
The first aspect of the partnership provides clean energy savings to Heading Home’s emergency shelters and transitional housing, reducing operating expenses and minimizing these facilities’ carbon footprint.
The second aspect involves offering Community Solar directly to individuals in the Heading Home network transitioning to independent housing, offering them the opportunity to support clean energy in their new residences while diminishing their energy cost burden.
Q: What makes Heading Home a helpful partner in achieving your Community Solar Initiative goals?
Heading Home has been a rewarding and helpful partner via their enthusiasm for engaging in Sunwealth’s current Community Solar offering and expanding the offering to involve direct outreach to individuals transitioning to independent housing. A vital aspect of the partnership has been Heading Home’s willingness to brainstorm new ideas to optimize education and outreach strategies to welcome new individuals to the clean energy economy. Sunwealth is certainly grateful for Heading Home’s flexible, reliable, and forward-looking partnership.
Q: Has anything been surprising or helped you deepen your level of understanding about serving a population of people experiencing homelessness?
Much of the energy industry interfaces with customers online, so working with Heading Home has sparked conversations about making the program accessible to individuals who have less experience or lower access to the internet.
Q: If another organization wanted to see if there was an opportunity to partner with you on bringing Community Solar to their organization, how would they go about that?
Sunwealth welcomes new organizational partners and would be thrilled to set up an initial video call to introduce the Community Solar offering in more depth and better understand its priorities.
Sunwealth currently offers Community Solar materials in English and Spanish, with all contract documents available in both languages and personnel who can engage with interested participants in both languages. Sunwealth aims to expand offerings to Portuguese in 2021.