Ronald Bethea and his company Positive Change Purchasing Co-Op (PCPC) as well as other businesses are collaborating to help HBCUS move towards preparing students for the solar energy industry. (Courtesy Photo)
By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
As renewable energy and job creation become centerpieces to America’s economic recovery, HBCUs and Black Americans could benefit through business and technology development opportunities. Three D.C. based companies are collaborating to bridge the gap between the African-American community and the solar energy industry.
Ronald Bethea, a former Morgan State football player who lives in Washington, D.C, has established the Positive Change Purchasing Co-Op (PCPC) as a national platform for educating the African-American communities nationwide about the economic impacts of climate change and the need for environmental education in Black areas. His company has teamed with Peer Consultants and WDC Solar and Sundial Solar from Jackson, Miss. as the founding members of the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.
Through the organization’s collaboration, Bethea hopes to help HBCUs enter into public and private partnerships with solar companies and private investment firms to create more solar farms on African-American owned farm lands and Black College campuses nationwide. It also wants to ensure minorities are in position to capitalize on the $2 trillion “Green New Deal” funding proposed by a Joe Biden presidency.
“HBCUs have the land to build these grids on their campuses and shift the paradigm in many ways,” Bethea told the AFRO. “If you can be self-sufficient taking care of your energy needs and profit from it’s excess that would be a game changer.”
Bethea also said that, in addition to academic and career opportunities for students, solar energy could be a significant revenue stream for HBCUs. Energy costs for most Black Colleges are only exceeded by employee salaries. It is estimated that Howard University spends between $15-18 million annually on energy costs alone. However, Bethea says they could offset the cost by investing in renewable fuel to service their needs and re-selling the energy to local power companies.
PCPC’s HBCU Solar Radio Initiative focuses on using the nation’s 106 HBCUs to become NABCEP representatives, who offer certificate training. They would provide web-based training in their local markets for those interested in pursuing business opportunities or career options in the solar energy industry. It is also encouraging partnerships between Black colleges and workforce development programs to collaborate with local solar companies in their regions to help them develop apprenticeship training programs for people that are successful in completing the NABCEP continuing education or work development training programs.
According to a report by Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the U.S. residential solar market experienced unprecedented growth in the third quarter of 2019. The increase in residential installations helped the U.S. solar market grow by 45 percent and contributed to 15 states having their best quarter ever for residential solar business. NABCEP feels the opportunities for information on these new business prospects aren’t readily accessible for minority participation.
“People are waking up,” Bethea said. “Climate change and the pandemic have forced innovation. We have been the most creative people on the planet forever. This is an important moment in our history and we have to be prepared to take advantage of it.”
The collaborative is hoping to encourage HBCUs to work in conjunction with Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) to help identify students majoring in business administration at HBCUs to assist local solar companies in writing proposals targeting local and federal grants to develop training programs. He feels that would reduce the amount of time and resources needed for smaller solar companies in their marketplace to complete the application process for grants and proposals.
Bethea is using digital technology to spread the message through his blog talk radio podcast “Solar Now and The Future with Its Economic Impact On Black America.”