2014 Annual Report -- Impact

UTILITY BILLS can be a major financial burden for low-income families. GRID Alternatives has slashed electricity costs by 75-90% for nearly 5000 families to-date, saving them an estimated $120 million in lifetime electricity costs. That’s money they can use to put food on their table, pay medical expenses and send their kids to college.

GRACE GAUTIER has owned her home in Denver for 26 years, and has used her tax return dollars every year to do home improvements. A former medical worker, she is now retired and living on social security income. Her 3.6 kW system is saving her nearly $1000 a year in energy costs, money she can use to feed and clothe the two grandchildren she’s raising. Click here to read more about Grace’s story.

TAMARA HERRERA was born premature and severely debilitated. She now runs and plays like any four year-old, but her health issues are still life-threatening. The family was struggling to keep up with utility bills from her medical equipment, often as high as $350 per month. When GRID put solar on their Roseville, California home in January 2014, it lifted an incredible weight off of the family and helped them focus on Tamara’s future. Click here to read more about Tamara’s story.

FLORICEL MARTINEZ and her partner Arturo are seasonal farm workers, raising their two sons on wages from cherry and grape picking. In between jobs it could be hard to pay their electricity bills, which averaged $210 a month.  They built their own home in Madera, CA through Self-Help Enterprises, and couldn’t believe they would also qualify for solar. “We always had to really pay attention to our expenses and got stuck a couple of times with really high bills,” said Floricel, “but now with solar and the training around being more efficient, we know our bills are not going to be so hard to pay.”

LOW-INCOME COMMUNITIES bear the brunt of air pollution and the impacts of climate change. We’re making sure that as we move to a clean energy economy, these communities are not left behind. In ten years, we’ve built a 14 megawatt rooftop power plant one home at a time, and our plan is to expand that to 100 MW over the next ten years.

RICHMOND, CALIFORNIA is a city nestled among five oil refineries, eight superfund sites, a web of highways and dozens of chemical factories and toxic waste sites. It’s also a solar pioneer. Since 2007, GRID Alternatives has partnered with the city to bring both financial and environmental relief from solar power to its largely minority residents, nearly one-fifth of whom live under the Federal poverty line. In collaboration with two local job training groups, community volunteers and a groundbreaking local rebate program, we’ve installed solar power on 141 Richmond rooftops to-date, the clean air equivalent of planting 211,000 trees.

EIGHTY-FIVE PERCENT of the 2600 homes in Union Beach, New Jersey were flooded during Superstorm Sandy, and hundreds of them had to be demolished. “The day after the storm, I came and saw the total devastation of this community,” said Jennifer Wenson Maier, Borough Administrator and founder of GRID partner Rebuilding Union Beach. “After the initial shock, my first thought was: what an enormous opportunity to rebuild smart.” Since we launched in New York in 2013, we've been helping communities rebuid smart from Union Beach to Far Rockaway, Queens to Long Island.

ROBERT ROBINSON and his wife Barbara were among the first to go solar in their tightly knit neighborhood of Broadway Heights in San Diego. Now thanks in no small part to their own efforts, they are one of 55 families there to benefit from GRID’s program, and neighbors regularly make a contest of who has the smallest energy bill.  A U.S. Marine Corps veteran who has been working to improve his neighborhood for 17 years, Robert joined GRID’s local advisory council in 2013 to become an ambassador for solar and help other communities access clean, affordable energy.

THE SOLAR INDUSTRY employs over 150,000 people nationwide. Most of these are good, local jobs that can’t be outsourced. GRID Alternatives has trained 19,000 people since 2004, and provided the hands-on solar installation experience people need to get hired. What’s more, our partnerships throughout the industry are helping our volunteers land jobs and launch their solar careers.

GRID VOLUNTEER Wendy Campa showed up for her first day on the job at a major solar company in Coachella Valley, CA to discover that she would be her local team's first female installer. Women like her are the reason GRID Alternatives launched a National Women in Solar Initiative this year, with major sponsorship from SunEdison, to bring more women into the solar industry and support them in their professional advancement. Solar jobs are growing by 20% a year, and women’s voices, talents and leadership are needed more than ever to build a strong and sustainable industry. Click here to learn more about what we're accomplishing this year.

FOR TEN DAYS in July 2013, GRID staff bunked down in mobile homes on the Bishop Paiute Reservation at the foot of the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains for a pilot project to bring solar power and solar job training to community residents. A year later they were back for a second round, leading a group of trainees through three more days of hands-on training that would qualify them to be hired by GRID Alternatives’ local solar subcontractors, who will be installing dozens more systems for low-income residents. “This program is a win-win-win for the Tribe,” said Marcella Keller, Director of the Bishop Paiute Tribal Employment Rights Office. “Our workers gain a tangible skill, our homeowners save hundreds of dollars, and these solar systems help to clean the air, protecting the natural environment for our future generations.”

WHEN DWIGHT DEMAR started volunteering with GRID through its partnership with Homeboy Industries, a non-profit serving formerly gang-involved men and women, he just couldn’t get enough. A recovering drug addict who was trying to turn his life around, he saw solar as his chance for a fresh start. He attended East LA Skills Center to get certified in solar, but he says that volunteering with GRID is what made everything click.  “You can spend years studying a language and not understand it until you’re immersed in it,” he said. “It’s the same for solar.” Today, thanks to support from GRID’s Greater Los Angeles staff, he is a lead installer for Solar Universe, and counts several other GRID/Homeboy veterans among his installation crew.

OUR SUCCESSES IN CALIFORNIA and beyond have positioned us as a national leader in low-income solar. GRID Alternatives was recognized by the White House this year as a “Champion of Change” for solar deployment, and several top Administration officials, including EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and HUD Secretary Julián Castro have participated in our events. We also made a public commitment to the Obama administration this year to help install 100 MW of solar in underserved communities in the next 10 years, and are consulting with HUD on meeting the Obama administration’s own goal of 100 MW of solar on Federally assisted housing.

IN 2013, GRID ALTERNATIVES led a successful effort to ensure continued access to solar energy for low-income families in California through the passage of AB217. The Equitable Access to Solar Energy Act extends the state’s groundbreaking low-income solar programs for both single- and multi-family housing until 2021, bringing $106 million in new public funding to support solar power and solar job training in communities that need it most.

IN THE PAST TWO YEARS, GRID Alternatives has expanded to serve families in Colorado, the New York tri-state region, the mid-Atlantic and Tribal communities nationwide. As we expand, we are also using our experience in California and beyond to help state and local government agencies like NYSERDA and the District of Columbia develop effective low-income solar programs to serve their residents.

GRID ALTERNATIVES has gone international! We acquired a grassroots non-profit called Power to the People in 2014, bringing our extensive volunteer and supporter network to help build on the organization’s work in Nicaragua.  Using a voluntourism model, we are leading groups of public and corporate volunteers to install off-grid solar in rural communities, literally lighting them up for the first time.  This year we are also piloting special projects around drip irrigation and women in solar.