More than 400 families and businesses in environmental justice communities across Chicago and its suburbs are now pre-qualified for the installation of rooftop solar panels, with more getting help connecting to community solar programs.
These efforts are being made through ComEd’s Climate-Friendly Nonprofit Grant program, which recently provided a $450,000 grant to Proviso Leyden Council for Community Action (PLCCA), a nonprofit that administers workforce development programs to low-income residents.
PLCCA is one of three nonprofit organizations that each recently received a grant through the ComEd program, which is designed to expand and improve access to climate-friendly and complementary programs for under-resourced neighborhoods across northern Illinois. Reports show climate change disproportionately impacts these communities and leaves residents more exposed to harmful air pollution.
“As ComEd prepares for a decarbonized future, it’s important that families across the entire economic spectrum have equal access to climate-friendly programs that will help improve their quality of life,” said Melissa Washington, senior vice president of customer operations and chief customer officer, ComEd. “I’m proud of the way our three grantees have found creative ways to lift up families and businesses in under-resourced communities.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines environmental justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”
To help families and businesses in these communities lower and manage electric bills, PLCCA launched the Solar, Jobs and Justice program. The program partners with local nonprofit organizations to hire and train residents from these same communities to help educate community members on the benefits of – and help connect them to – solar energy. The transition can help decarbonize neighborhoods that tend to be the most impacted by high concentrations of air pollutants and other environmental concerns.
Since October 2022, PLCCA has used its grant to hire and train more than 30 solar ambassadors, designers and installers to educate home and business owners about rooftop and community solar programs, grants available to fund the installation of rooftop solar panels and, once qualified, assist with installations. Staff also provide education on the installation of electric vehicle charging equipment and energy-efficiency programs that can help manage energy use to lower energy bills.
Representatives of PLCCA, which itself takes advantage of solar panels at its Maywood, Ill., headquarters, attend conferences or go door-to-door to assist families and businesses.
“We are pleased with the success that our partnership with ComEd has thus far achieved in our community,” said Bishop Dr. Claude Porter, PLCCA president and CEO. “Not only have we created good-paying jobs and career opportunities in the growing field of renewable energy, but we have begun to educate families and businesses about the environmental benefits of carbon-free energy. We are very excited about the interest and positive responses we have received.”
Other Grant Recipients
Since the launch of ComEd’s year-long Climate Friendly Nonprofit Grant Program in 2022, two other area nonprofits are making progress on their efforts to increase access to solar and other sources of climate-friendly energy.
Community Investment Corporation (CIC): With its $450,000 grant, CIC identified 17 multi-family buildings within Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood as prospective recipients of climate-friendly upgrades. CIC is now in the process of evaluating ways to implement these upgrades to help make housing units more eco-friendly, while improving the quality of life for the low- and moderate-income tenants living in these buildings.
Equiticity: With its nearly $450,000 grant, Equiticity established the Mobility Opportunities Fund, a first-of-its kind program that provides education and stipends to help low- and moderate-income residents of Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood purchase climate-friendly transportation, including conventional bicycles, including conventional bicycles, electric bikes, electric cargo bikes and electric vehicles.
Equiticity offered individual stipends of $350 for a conventional bike, $750 for an e-bike, $1,500 for an electric cargo bike and $8,750 for an electric vehicle. Recipients of stipends for electric modes of transportation also receive training on mechanics and safety. To date, Equiticity allocated stipends for more than 100 bikes, 75 e-bikes, 50 e-cargo bikes and 25 electric vehicles.
To create awareness of the stipends and assist residents with the application process, Equiticity has so far held four application events across North Lawndale. The organization also provides no- to low-cost repair services for bikes and e-bikes. Equiticity trains students who are part of its education programs to perform these services.
ComEd is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corporation (NASDAQ: EXC), a Fortune 200 energy company with approximately 10 million electricity and natural gas customers – the largest number of customers in the U.S. ComEd powers the lives of more than 4 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state’s population. For more information visit ComEd.com and connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.