GRID Alternatives San Diego

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  • Highlighted Program: Solar Workforce Development
  • Looking For: board members and workforce development advisory board members
  • giv4 Category: Educational Impact
  • Contact for more information:

    Michelle Kearney
    Development Officer
    [email protected]

GRID Alternatives is working to ensure that everyone benefits from a rapid, equitable transition to a world powered by renewable energy.


What makes your organization unique in its approach to addressing climate change?

We use a unique, people-first model for solar projects that serve qualifying households and affordable housing providers, while also providing hands-on job training. GRID San Diego has installed solar for more than 1,500 families to date and helped households and housing providers save $46 million in lifetime electricity costs while training over 2,300 people.


GRID San Diego is an affiliate of GRID Alternatives, the nation’s largest nonprofit installer of clean energy technologies and a national leader in making clean, affordable solar power and solar jobs accessible to communities of concern.


How do climate/environmental changes affect the San Diego region specifically?

As the southernmost coastal region of California, San Diego experiences climate events such as floods, droughts, wildfires, and heat storms. Though widespread, the burden of climate change is not shared equally across all San Diegan communities. Communities of concern, otherwise known as disadvantaged, low-income or low-access, bear the brunt of environmental injustice due to mixed-zoning policies, close proximity to landfills and dumping sites, and lack of access to interconnected socioeconomic-, housing-, mobility-, and health-related opportunities.


These communities often have lower access to air conditioning and live in areas frequently affected more severely by heat waves. We just experienced our third hottest summer on record. Subsequently, many seniors or families with young children report needing to invest in cooling units to keep their homes livable, causing huge increases in their energy bills. Heat storms can be deadly, especially in cases when air conditioning is not an affordable option. More extreme weather and energy rate hikes are predicted for our region in the coming years.


Heat waves also tend to bring rolling blackouts - because of the higher strain on the grid from people running air conditioners - as well as wildfires. Especially in our rural tribal communities, this effect is compounding. People can simultaneously experience smoke from wildfires, power outages community-wide (including stores and gas stations), and extreme heat from lack of access to air conditioning.


Solar can help low-income residents of San Diego to keep their homes safe, affordable and livable year-round. Owning solar can help reduce energy bills by up to 80%. When partnered with battery storage, it can also provide resiliency against rolling blackouts. Additionally, offsetting GHG through solar installations is an immediate response to these dire conditions and an objective of San Diego County’s Climate Action Plan.


When was the organization founded?

GRID Alternatives was founded during the 2001 California energy crisis by two engineering professionals who were implementing large-scale renewable energy and energy efficiency projects for the private sector. The idea that drove them was simple: free, clean electricity from the sun should be available to everyone. Through GRID Alternatives, they developed a model to make solar PV technology practical and accessible for communities of concern, while providing pathways to clean energy jobs.


In 2008, GRID was selected by the California Public Utilities Commission to serve as the statewide program manager for its groundbreaking Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) incentive program, prompting an expansion across California including the establishment of our San Diego-based office. Since opening in 2008, the GRID San Diego office has installed solar for over 1500 families, preventing 83,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions and providing 17,000 hours of hands-on installation training.


giv4 provides general operating support through this grant. (Why? Learn more). However, if this funding would be useful in your giv4 climate category (educational impact), how would it be used?

Donations to giv4 will support our educational programing that directly leads to increased employment in well-paid jobs.


GRID’s program directly increases the accessibility of well-paying jobs in a growing industry to communities of concern through hands-on, paid training and connections to a network of industry employers.


The employment outlook for GRID’s program graduates is excellent. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected growth rate for the position of solar photovoltaic installer from 2021-2031 is 27%, as compared to the projected average growth rate for all occupations, which is 5%. Additionally, the mean hourly wage for this position in California is $24.38 -- significantly higher than the California minimum wage. The combination of a livable wage and a fast-growing industry creates a more accessible entry point with great long-term prospects for individuals from communities that have seen historical and systemic disinvestment.


GRID’s installation training program consists of hands-on learning, supplemental warehouse education and workshops, safety certification training, and job placement support. Examples of the types of expenses we see in this program include trainee supplies - like protective hard hats and tools, -solar installation materials used for hands-on training and installation, and compensation for our powerhouse team of workforce development trainers and supervisors.


Are there any recent news articles/publications/videos by or about your organization that you’d like to highlight?


Is your organization looking for volunteers? Are you looking for committee/board members with particular skill sets? Do you need in-kind donations of any sort?


GRID San Diego is assembling a local committee of community members, partner organizations, and workforce development experts to advise and help grow our workforce development program and facilitate conversations locally around expanding solar industry recruitment accessibility.


Organizations and individuals who have lived and/or professional experience in the following are encouraged to reach out to Dan Mueller at [email protected]:

  • Navigating the justice system
  • Integrating and/or providing wrap-around services congruently with educational opportunities
  • Whole-person job/life readiness and education.
  • Workforce Development


GRID’s Board is looking for individuals with experience and expertise in the following areas:

  • Agriculture
  • Fundraising
  • Land use
  • Tribal community leadership
  • Marketing/social media
  • Media connections
  • Nonprofit management

To learn more, reach out to Dan Mueller at [email protected]


We want to ensure giv4 climate has geographic and socioeconomic diversity/representation. Where do you operate in the SD region? Are there particular communities that your work supports?

Operating out of our office in Southeast San Diego, our programs reach throughout all of San Diego County, including a focus on tribal reservations. Our work supports communities that have been systemically disinvested in, prioritizing San Diego’s low-income families. GRID is committed to making our job training opportunities accessible and inclusive of groups that are traditionally underrepresented in solar including women and people of color.


What else would you want people to know about your organization?

GRID often uses the term "communities of concern" when referring to the families and people we work with. Here, we expand on what that means.


Because of historic disinvestment (like redlining, more information here if this term is new to you) and close proximity to landfills and dumping sites, communities of color and low-income communities often face a disproportionate burden of pollution and climate change effects. At the same time, they often spend a much more significant proportion of their income on energy expenses and face larger obstacles in obtaining solar or other renewable energy benefits.


Our Community Development Officer, Eddie Price, found that the terminology most often used to refer to these communities that we prioritize in our work frequently had a negative connotation and was not embraced by the communities themselves.


By changing our terminology, it is our hope and goal to be respectful, intentional, and informative of some of the systemic issues underlying the problems we face today.

I would love to learn more directly from Grid Alternatives
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