The growing wealth disparity between low- and moderate-income (LMI) households and other underserved groups and those with greater afuence is refected through the disproportionate uptake of clean technologies by higher-income households in U.S. and Canadian municipalities. These households lack access to clean energy technologies because of a variety of barriers, including afordability, high up-front costs, access to credit, split incentives between landlords and tenants, outreach and awareness, and other programmatic barriers. These trends raise concerns of a growing “electrical divide” where difering abilities to adopt new clean energy technologies could further disadvantage communities.
Inequity within communities is exacerbated by additional factors beyond income, including race, ethnicity, citizenship, ability, age, and fuency with the dominant language. This guide focuses primarily on economic inequity as a key limitation to household access to clean energy, while also underscoring that equitable program design must recognize and address social and racial inequities. Throughout North America, inequity and inequality have a direct relationship with race and indigenous communities. Persistent structural and institutional racism through government policies, the legal system, and formal and informal practices have posed barriers for communities of color, immigrant communities, and indigenous communities. These groups have historically faced limited access to resources and a disproportionate share of environmental and economic burdens. Reversing both income and electrical divides will require local governments and their partners to examine the intersections of class and race within their contexts, and acknowledge and address structural and institutional racism and other barriers.
To counteract these disparities, this guidebook introduces a process and principles that local governments and their partners can use to design equitable clean energy programs in their communities. When equity is approached intentionally, municipalities and their partners can create programs that prioritize making clean energy technologies accessible and benefcial to LMI households. Centering equity in clean energy program design and planning is critical to building a just transformation to a clean energy future.