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Incorporating energy justice into utility-scale photovoltaic deployment: A policy framework

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Full Publication Date
May 23, 2022

Utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) installations made up 77 GW (6%) of installed capacity in the United States, as of the end of 2021 [1,2]. This will grow to more than 500 GW by 2050 under a mid-case projection or more than 800 GW if solar costs decline more rapidly [3]. While utility-scale PV is projected to grow rapidly, to date, unlike energy efficiency or distributed PV, utility-scale PV has not been used to provide substantial financial benefits to underserved communities, either through ownership, financing of assets, or direct electricity bill reduction.

We assess two mechanisms through which utility-scale PV could benefit underserved communities. We find that while a framework for direct electricity bill reduction can be meaningful to customers, this mechanism falls short of providing restorative justice via wealth creation for minority-owned businesses. In contrast, we find that a framework for procurement of utility-scale PV by public and private entities from PV projects that are financed, owned, and/or developed by minority-owned businesses can provide this restorative justice benefit, and thereby facilitate an equitable energy transition. We conclude with concrete recommendations for new policies and programs to ensure that the benefits of utility-scale PV systems are distributed to underserved communities. 

Jenny Heeter

Energy equity

Environmental justice

Energy justice

Utility-scale photovoltaics

Utility programs

Publication Type
Journal Article
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Full Citation

Jenny Heeter, Tony Reames, Incorporating energy justice into utility-scale photovoltaic deployment: A policy framework, Renewable Energy Focus, Volume 42, 2022, Pages 1-7, ISSN 1755-0084. CSS22-43