GRID's "How I Got Here" Series: Lidia Castelo


October 27, 2021
A glasses-wearing person in GRID Alternatives blue shirt gear smiles

This is the latest in a series of regular profiles introducing the GRID Alternatives Greater Los Angeles staff. In their own way, each member of our team brings a passion for renewable energy to the day-to-day work of Los Angeles' most socially-minded solar company. Here's how one of them got to that point: Lidia Castelo, Senior Outreach Coordinator.

Lidia Castelo's journey to be at the center of the work of GRID Alternatives follows a path that connects many households across many local communities. As the first of our staffers to hold the title of Senior Outreach Coordinator, she gets to be deeply involved in the planning of individual solar projects on single-family homes and is often on the lookout for new people to enroll in no-cost, income-qualified programs. As a past participant in solar programs herself, and as a mother, Lidia gets firsthand what it means to have more financial independence and knowledge about energy use. "One must dedicate time and energy to building that trust with clients," she likes to say.

In order to be successful at enrolling and educating people who are eligible for these programs, it can take more than evening phone calls. Collaborating with partners on Outreach lead generation often falls to Lidia in situations like our work with Habit for Humanity (in both Los Angeles and Orange County area communities). Calling herself "a very strong believer in nourishing relationships," Lidia likes to make sure prospective solar owners know that they won't just be having conversations with her up until contract – she is also responsible for post-solar support, which means making sure that people understand their installed solar's operation and get the most value out of it. GRID Alternatives sees the benefits of a solar system even outlasting the lifespan of the panels and other equipment; it helps build a resilient household to thrive in a resilient built environment. "In my journey for social and environmental justice," observes Lidia, "I have been part of a very powerful vision to stop the displacement of low-income families."

Before and during this pandemic, Lidia considered herself a strong proponent for "technological flexibility" and the ability to meet clients where they are. In tandem with other GRID offerings that have been available (referral incentive programs, local Solarthon events, and deep collaboration with mission-aligned organizations … all things Lidia has championed), technology has kept Outreach moving towards goals through a years-long period of economic uncertainty for low-income populations. While some aspects of Lidia's Outreach Coordinator work are different today, the stakeholders are familiar.

In her days before working at GRID, collaborating with health stakeholders in the Figueroa Corridor including Esperanza Community Housing, Lidia saw that giving a population the chance to direct itself towards a positive future often requires a multifaceted approach from different sources of expertise. She had already seen that change was possible as a young woman supporting the Right To The City Alliance work in neighborhoods undergoing change. Accepting an Outreach-based position at GRID was an easy decision for her when, after about a year-and-a-half in the late-2000s searching for just the right job for her, she saw the direct ways that more solar for communities of color would dismantle environmental racism. She has never looked back! (Fun fact: Lidia took a culinary apprenticeship on the coast of Mexico shortly before GRID, a year when she cooked seafood and explored the rich traditions of the area.)

The GRID of 2021 is even more diverse internally than that GRID that Lidia joined over a decade ago. As someone who has watched the trajectory of our nationwide organization for many years, seeing the region's staff more than triple and the total staff more than quadruple since her hiring, she sees a lot for our innovative team to be proud of. (Lidia was involved in one of our earliest five-year plans, which set GRID on the path to install for renters, among other things.) For the years ahead, she hopes she'll be spending her third decade of grass-roots empowerment through organizing watching more and more customers take advantage of clean technology that's becoming more and more accessible. In doing so, folx will have increased opportunity to give their kids the same things Lidia gives her own sons: healthy childhoods, positive role models the workforce, safe places to learn and grow.

Lidia is proud to be a college-educated with a long tenure at (in our opinion, at least) the most important solar organization in Los Angeles. "Right now at GRID I am the Outreach Coordinator, and I was one of the original OCs from back in the Carson [office location] days." It's inspiring for customers benefiting from her expertise to know that at her core, Lidia is the same motivated person today that she was back in those "Carson days" with just nine other people—and largely the same motivated person she was as a student organizer. "I go above and beyond, I believe, to bring in clients," she asserts. It's an important part of our process, and central in our theory of change. How does Lidia sum it up? "It's in tandem with a broader movement to build democratic, just, and sustainable communities."