by Hadley Barndollar
The color of New England’s clean energy landscape is starting to crystalize, and it’s not green.
A chance to build an industry from the ground up, an equitable and just sector that works to correct wrongs of the past, provides a landmark opportunity. But the energy transition is on the move, and many worry history is about to repeat itself.
People of color are vastly underrepresented in the industry.
“My biggest concern is, are we going to be left out again?” said Kerry Bowie, executive director of Browning the Green Space.
An inclusive industry that empowers the very populations most historically harmed by climate change, pollution and corporations won’t rise on its own, and people like Bowie know that. They’re taking action, and not waiting around to see how it plays out.
“You have to be intentionally inclusive and bringing people into the fold,” he said.
The name of Bowie’s nonprofit quite literally summarizes its mission — a cross sector group of leaders working to bring more people of color into New England’s energy field. The group works out of Greentown Labs in Somerville, Massachusetts, a climate tech startup incubator.
For Bowie, the new industry is about “creating jobs, building wealth and reducing the energy burden” for communities of color. Black, brown, Latinx, Indigenous and low-income people have historically been subjected to toxic dump sites, polluted air and water, and heat islands — and the associated poor health outcomes.
So far, data shows people of color aren’t getting their fair share of jobs in the energy industry. A 2021 report looking at diversity in the national clean energy industry
found about 61% of clean energy workers across the country were white non-Hispanics, with Black and Hispanic/Latino workers more poorly represented in clean energy than they are in the rest of the economy.
“It’s very similar to what happened during the Industrial Revolution when we built up jobs and environmental justice communities were left behind,” said Ruth Georges, supervisor of equity, strategic partnerships and workforce development at Eversource.
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