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Solar Pre-Apprenticeship Program Can Yield Positive Change in Georgia

Reprinted from a Drawdown Georgia blog post

Solar Pre-Apprenticeship Program Can Yield Positive Change in Georgia

Reprinted from a Drawdown Georgia blog post

Published 05-24-24

Submitted by Ray C. Anderson Foundation

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Sustainable Georgia Futures community leaders in action

Investing in climate solutions can be a powerful way to improve lives, address historic inequities, create jobs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions all at once.

One organization that keenly understands these connections is Sustainable Georgia Futures (SGF), a recipient of the 2024-2025 Drawdown Georgia Climate Solutions & Equity Grant.

A conversation with Adrienne Rice of Sustainable Georgia Futures

We recently had the chance to connect with Adrienne Rice, the founder and executive director of SGF, about the important work the organization is doing to improve lives and scale climate solutions in our state.

Read on to be inspired by their work around energy efficiency, weatherization, solar energy, and workforce development in historically disadvantaged communities.

Tell us about the work that Sustainable Georgia Futures does in the community.

SGF is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to creating green economy pathways for Black and people of color in our state. We are a Black-woman-led collective of expert organizers and community leaders working to build power in Georgia’s marginalized communities to advance an inclusive economy and promote environmental justice. 

We seek to achieve our goals through actions including:

  • Holding Climate Justice Education Meetings to build consensus on issues and address and devise action plans.
  • Community organizing with a focus on addressing climate change and systemic racism.
  • Offering a paid fellowship program that provides education about climate change, training in organizing strategy, and introductions to industry leaders.
  • Hosting trainings, workshops, and other educational events for the community.

Congratulations on receiving a 2024-2025 Climate Solutions & Equity grant. Tell us about the projects this grant will fund.

Grant funds will be used to expand the already established WeatheRise energy efficiency program that provides weatherization improvements for low- to moderate-income Black households in Atlanta.

Beginning this summer, SGF will work alongside other local groups including the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA), Southface, and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy to develop a Pilot Solar Pre-Apprenticeship Program that will provide hands-on experience with Atlanta-based solar installers.

Apprentices will be able to earn three different well-respected solar installation certifications. Training these apprentices will help ensure that people in previously disinvested communities of color have equitable opportunities to be hired in the wave of solar-related jobs that are coming to Georgia.

This truly groundbreaking initiative was designed to address energy burdens within Georgia's Low and Moderate- Income (LMI) Black households as well as to address the current lack of Black apprentices in registered apprenticeship programs. The program seeks to address the immediate issue of high energy burdens and creates long-term opportunities for economic empowerment within frontline communities.

By equipping participants with the skills and knowledge needed to address energy inefficiencies, this program seeks to create a more sustainable and equitable future for all residents.

>> Drawdown Georgia's free toolkit offers advice for improving energy efficiency in your home, including tips for finding loans, tax credits, and more to make these upgrades more affordable.

Tell us about energy burdens in Atlanta and why they tend to be so high for low- to moderate-income Black households in the city. 

Energy burden, particularly in cities like Atlanta, is a pressing issue, especially for low-income, Black and minority communities. These populations often face disproportionately high energy costs compared to their income due to various systemic factors. When looking at energy costs as a percentage of household income, a high energy burden is defined as anything above 6%, and a severe energy burden is above 10%. The median energy burden of Black households in Atlanta is 33% higher than that of non-Hispanic white households.

One of the key factors contributing to this disparity is systemic environmental racism. This includes historical injustices such as unfair housing laws and redlining, which have led to the concentration of low-income and minority populations in areas with inadequate housing infrastructure and higher energy costs. Factors like unequal wages and lack of access to affordable housing also exacerbate the energy burden for these communities.

Addressing the energy burden requires tackling systemic racism and addressing its root causes. At SGF, we recognize the interconnectedness of workforce development, climate change, and systemic racism. By empowering Black and Brown communities and providing opportunities for them to participate in and benefit from a regenerative economy, SGF aims to dismantle oppressive systems and create positive change.

Addressing the energy burden and its underlying causes requires a paradigm shift in how society approaches and supports marginalized communities. Organizations like SGF are working towards a more equitable and sustainable future by building power within these communities and advocating for systemic change.

Why are energy efficiency/weatherization and workforce development projects so important for your community?

We believe that providing training in clean energy technologies such as solar and weatherization opens up new career pathways for community members, allowing them to join the growing clean energy workforce. This helps individuals secure employment and contributes to the expansion of this emerging economy.

Moreover, by involving community partners and experts, the program ensures that training is tailored to the specific needs and realities of the communities it serves. The localized approach fosters a sense of ownership and investment among participants, increasing the likelihood of program success and sustainability.

Additionally, by focusing on skill-building and professional development, the program equips participants with valuable tools and knowledge that can be applied beyond energy efficiency. This can lead to broader economic opportunities and entrepreneurship within the community.

The Pilot Weatherization and Solar Pre-Apprenticeship Programs have the potential to be a transformative model that not only addresses energy burdens but also empowers Black communities and promotes environmental justice in Georgia. By fostering skills, creating jobs, and promoting sustainable practices, this program aligns with SGF's mission to build a more resilient, equitable, and environmentally conscious future.

How can people follow the work you do and/or get involved in your projects?

To learn more about SGF or get more involved, please sign up for our monthly Climate Justice Education Meetings (CJEM) on our website and follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.

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Ray C. Anderson Foundation

Ray C. Anderson Foundation

The Ray C. Anderson Foundation was created in honor of the late Ray C. Anderson (1934-2011), founder of Interface, Inc. During his time at Interface, Ray championed the notion of businesses doing well by doing good. It’s these noble qualities of advancing knowledge and innovation around environmental stewardship and sustainability that recognized Ray as a pioneer in industrial ecology.

The purpose of the Foundation is to perpetuate these shared values and continue the legacy that Ray left behind. Through research and funding, the Foundation aims to help create a better world for future generations—tomorrow’s child. Join us as the story of the Foundation continues to unfold.

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