How To Make Dreams A Reality: MLK Edition

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Humankind is made up of dreamers. Every day, across the nation, people wake up ready to make a change — so why are so many painful patterns still being repeated? Why has our nation continued to extract energy from the earth when the sun offers it for free? Nexamp has a dream to make clean energy simple and accessible to all, and we’re not stopping there. As we take on the challenge of decarbonizing the world, we look to Martin Luther King Jr. for guidance — how do we leverage the power of a nation to make this dream a reality?  

Have a Dream 

Our mission is clear and simple: give everyone the power to take part in the clean energy revolution. For far too long, our nation has settled for dirty fossil fuels when the sun produces power daily. Our dream is to revolutionize the future of clean energy and make decarbonization easy for generations to come. And according to MLK, one of our nation’s greatest dreamers, people are the place to start. Ensuring that accessibility to solar energy extends to communities that have historically been overlooked is a critical component of a decarbonized future. Having solar panels installed on your roof is a great option if you own a home, have a good credit score, and live in a state with strong solar incentives. The problem is these obstacles inhibit over half of the country from tapping into clean, locally sourced power. This is where community solar comes in. 
 
Community solar farms represent an open door for those who’ve previously been excluded from the benefits of clean energy. For some, it’s a way around putting panels on the roof, but for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), it’s an avenue towards energy equality. According to a 2016 study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA), low-income Black and Brown communities spend a much higher share of their revenue on energy. The average low-income household pays 7.2% of household income on utilities, while higher income households pay 2.3%. The impact of higher energy bills goes beyond financial burdens. Living in under-heated or over-heated homes puts tenants at a higher risk of health-related issues. In the 1960’s, inequality was rearing its head through red lines, segregated bathrooms, and irrational discrimination. Decades later, it’s twofold, racial injustices are still at play and the effects of climate change are disproportionately landing on marginalized communities. Environmental racism, a term that was coined in 1982 during the environmental justice movement, addresses the fact that these conditions expose Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) to higher pollution, while offering them little political or legal recourse. Nexamp understands that we cannot address environmental issues without addressing environmental racism as well. “For Nexamp to have a lasting impact across communities, we cannot leave anyone behind,” shared Nexamp’s CEO, Zaid Ashai. “When we build community solar projects, they are open to all, regardless of wealth, race, background, or household income.”  

Challenge the Status Quo 

In the famous words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Our veteran founders saw firsthand where our nation’s reliance on foreign oil leads and came back to the States with a plan. Nexamp is a mission-based company focused on transitioning the world to a clean energy economy. 14 years ago, when Will Thompson and Dan Leary started Nexamp, it was clear that a vertically integrated model was essential to the company’s overall mission. With this approach, we control everything: development, operation, distribution and location. Historically, centralized power plants have been located in underprivileged areas causing serious respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis, as well as higher mortality rates. These placements are based on centuries of racist policies and are affecting the quality of life for these communities daily. Nexamp aims to alleviate this burden by building the future of distributed generation. It’s time to say goodbye to thick gray clouds of smoke and hello to the rising sun. As we move across the country, we’re helping landowners convert underutilized land into money-making, carbon-cutting solutions and seeking opportunities in low-to-moderate income communities. For instance, we recently partnered with ComEd on “Give-A-Ray”, a project that expands access and furthers the discount to community solar in the Rockford, IL area. To an audience in Montgomery, Alabama, MLK once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” At Nexamp, we’re considering this question daily, and always looking to further our positive impact. In fact, we’ve jumped into the animal kingdom and now offer sheep grazing and native pollinator vegetation on select sites. This addition not only supports stronger land, but also works to lower emissions on clean energy maintenance. Decarbonization is the goal, and we won’t stop fighting until the world is habitable for all.  

Keep Fighting

Martin Luther King Jr. led over 200,000 people to the Lincoln Memorial with the power of his words. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” His message lives on today, 59 years later, as we continue to pay tribute as a nation. It’s going to take time to decarbonize the world and the energy industry cannot be changed overnight, but we need to keep fighting for what’s right.  

It’s time to take responsibility for our actions and move forward. “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Martin Luther King Jr demanded change in his “I Have A Dream” speech and for the rest of time, he will be remembered as a force of nature in the American civil rights movement. Nexamp aims to be the same in the fight against climate change. Our dream is to deliver power to the people without hurting our forever home. We know it’s possible and we’re sure MLK would tell us to keep fighting. Join us today.

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