The solar marketplace has experienced exponential growth on a global, national, and local scale. Nationally, 4 out of 10 electricity generation jobs were solar jobs in 2017 – more new jobs than any other segment of the energy industry.
Solar energy’s sustained growth has impacted local economies. In both the District of Columbia and Baltimore, solar developers, financiers, and solar engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) firms are shaping a market that is rich with innovation and profitability. In the District alone, solar capacity grew from a negligible base in 2009 to 62MW by the end of 2018, representing an investment of about $160 million to date. DC’s solar capacity is expected to increase to 164MW by 2023. Based on expected installation costs and capacity projects, the period 2018-2023 could see an additional $300 million in solar investments in DC.
Critically, however, minority and woman-owned businesses are underrepresented at every level of the solar supply chain in the District – especially as business owners and principals. As a result, the solar industry and its wealth-building economic expansion in the District of Columbia and in Baltimore is not fulfilling its potential to drive equitable economic development. In order to create successful pathways of participation, business ownership and employment opportunities must be made known to disadvantaged entrepreneurs; financing must be accessible; and guidance in establishing specialized administrative functions must be available.
At the same time, and towards supporting full market participation, the District of Columbia and Baltimore should maintain their momentum and accelerate programs that enable equitable access to affordable solar and associated electricity bill savings, such as the District of Columbia’s innovative Solar for All program. These leading efforts help to eliminate unnecessary and unfair financial barriers to consumer participation in the local solar marketplace.
The objective of the report is two-fold:
- To describe the current levels of minority and woman-owned business participation in the solar sector in the Baltimore, MD and District of Columbia solar markets, and frame the near-term opportunities; and,
- To provide recommendations for closing the diversity gap.