How Grid Modernization Advances Equity
The 2021 Texas Freeze (February 11th through 20th 2021) brought to light the terrible inadequacies in the electrical grid’s ability to withstand a disaster. Millions were left without power, access to clean water, or heat in dangerous conditions. 69 deaths were attributed to this preventable situation that resulted in approximately $18bn in damage owing to 44 hours of freezing temperatures.
Many are again experiencing similar problems with this summer’s heat wave as people overload the antiquated electrical grids. Loss of power in these 100+° temperatures removes air conditioning, fans, refrigeration, and more essential services we have come to depend on in this modern age. This problem is not going away and is in fact expected to become more severe as our dependence on and use of electricity rises.
Quick fixes will no longer be enough to sustain our nation’s need for power. While temperatures impact all peoples relatively equally, some have more means to cope with them than others.
Utilities And Access for All
Further widening of the gap between underrepresented groups and privileged people does harm to the nation’s economy. Announced July 27, 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration is taking new actions to lower home electricity costs for American families. Access to more affordable and reliable energy and the creation of clean energy jobs is another step toward creating equity in housing and opportunities for financial success.
The average low-income household spends almost 9% of their income on energy. That adds up to tens of millions of Americans who are forced to make hard decisions between keeping the lights on or staying cool, and making other essential purchases like food and medicine.
The Biden administration’s efforts aim to level the field for people of color at several levels, including increasing workforce diversity. This demonstrates a shift in this country’s priorities in favor of those most impacted by disasters and the challenges of everyday living with sub-optimal access to power and utilities.
Weatherization for Working People
In December 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy announced an $18 million initiative to enhance their existing residential Weatherization Assistance Program, thereby helping lower energy costs for consumers. This includes expanding the types of residential buildings eligible for energy efficiency retrofits, preparing more homes for electrification, and increasing opportunities for local, good-paying clean energy jobs. “Weatherization… cuts monthly energy bills for families by up to 30%, and makes our air healthier,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.
- Black households spend 43% more of their income on energy costs.
- Hispanic households spend 20% more.
- Native American households spend 45% more.
Elements of this initiative include bringing previously underserved homes off deferral/waitlists and into the queue to address high-cost repairs and health and safety hazards. Expanding America’s weatherization workforce includes development programs, outreach and recruitment, job readiness, mentorship, stipends, partnerships with labor organizations and unions, and more to help reduce barriers to employment of underrepresented populations.
The Future of National Access to Power
There are other initiatives in addition to grid modernization projects taking place to address and lessen economic disparities caused by decades of disinvestment in infrastructure, which most heavily impact communities of color. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework is making it possible for people to get an opportunity to fulfill the American Dream, taking the first steps in advancing equity and racial justice throughout the economy.
The Biden Administration is working to establish wider and affordable access to high-speed broadband internet, reduce exposure to lead for millions of families and children, reduce pollution, and make investments to modernize public transit that disproportionally impact underprivileged people.
Most particularly, the Framework invests $52 billion in aid to communities building resistance to wildfires and floods, which includes winterizing power grids. It creates a Grid Development Authority at the Department of Energy to enable a national, clean energy power grid, as well as funds to support activities that reduce damage to the grid, protecting communities from weather, wildfire, and national disasters. It invests in research and development for smart grid technologies and invests more than $22 billion in projects and research hubs for the next generation.
Hiring for Electrical Grid Modernization
Progressive places skilled people with leading companies across the country in high-paying in-demand jobs. Get in touch with us to learn more about grid infrastructure job opportunities.