CE4AEF Board Member Audrey Lee Interviews Reactivate’s Utopia Hill
Utopia Hill is an industry veteran within the clean energy workforce with close to two decades of experience. In February she started a new role as Head of Engineering, Procurement and Construction with the solar platform partnership Reactivate, which is a renewable energy joint venture between Invenergy and Lafayette Square.
Our board member Audrey Lee interviewed her to learn more about this innovative organization she’s helping to lead.
Audrey: Can you tell me more about Reactivate, your renewable energy joint venture, and why has it been described as Solar 2.0?
Utopia: Reactivate is a Joint Venture between Invenergy and Lafayette Square. Invenergy is an industry leader in developing, owning and operating renewable energy projects with over 30GW [Beth confirm numbers] of projects. Lafayette Square is an impact investment company which has focused on capital markets, affordable housing and renewables, to make positive social and economic impact in underserved communities.
By combining the strengths of each organization, Reactivate plans to become a market leader in the community solar and small-scale utility solar markets with targets of 3 gigawatts online by 2030. We also plan to make sure our work is impactful for low-to middle income communities, underrepresented groups, those disproportionately impacted by climate change, and those who have had their job displaced due to energy transitions. That is what makes us Solar 2.0.
Audrey: Why is Reactive going to focus on making solar power accessible to lower- to middle-income communities?
Utopia: The easy answer is because it is the right thing to do. According to the Department of Energy, the national average energy burden for low-income households is 8.6%. That is three times higher than for non-low-income households which is estimated at 3%. In some areas, depending on location and income, energy burden can be as high as 30%. By focusing on low-to-moderate income communities, Reactivates hopes to lessen the energy burden by providing cost savings to LMI Communities.
Audrey: What kind of savings could customers see on their monthly utility bills?
Utopia: We are targeting on average 10% savings on customers’ electricity bills. We hope to save customers who subscribe to our projects over $50 million by 2030.
Audrey: Reactive doesn’t just want to be in the spreadsheets, but in the community. What kind of relationship do you want to create with the communities where Reactivate is present?
Utopia: Our intent is to own the assets in our fleet. Solar assets have a 30+ year useful life. That means that we will be part of our project communities for decades. And as good neighbors, we want to make sure we provide benefits to our project communities.
The tax revenue from our projects will benefit areas such as schools and infrastructure for our host communities. We will work with community agencies as part of our workforce development program, and we hope to hire people within the community to operate our projects. We will also plan to engage with local business owners to provide services or equipment for our development, construction and operations. In addition, we want to contract with minority and women owned businesses to help increase their presence in this industry. Our goal is to execute at least 100 contracts with minority and women owned businesses by 2030.
Audrey: How will Reactivate focus on workforce training and apprenticeships?
Utopia: We know that renewables and solar are among the fastest growing job markets in the country. We are currently collaborating with partners on a workforce training framework to bring online, in-classroom, and hands-on training to people in underrepresented communities as well as those impacted by job displacement due to energy transitions.
Solar jobs are good paying jobs where people can make a living wage to support their families. We want to be a part of moving this industry forward and have set a goal of providing workforce training for at least 2500 individuals by 2030.
Audrey: How do you think that Reactivate can make progress for environmental justice?
Utopia: At its core, Reactivate’s mission is to expand the network of who has access to the benefits of solar projects. That is why we are providing our services to LMI customers who often face disproportionately high energy costs. That is why we are committed to contracting with minority and women owned businesses. That is why we are committed to workforce development in underrepresented communities and to those impacted due to energy transitions.
We want to ensure that the work we do provides environmental benefits for our host communities. By adding solar energy, we can decrease the carbon emissions in communities that are disproportionately impacted by climate change and environmental degradation.
By living up to our commitments as an organization, we will help make progress for environmental justice.
Audrey: Why do you believe it's important for the federal government to invest in clean energy through legislation like the Build Back Better Act?
Utopia: It’s important for the federal government to accelerate the clean energy transition in order to mitigate the effects of climate change. Clean energy provisions in the Build Back Better Act provide incentives for developers all over the country to accelerate the deployment of clean energy technologies such as solar. And these incentives reduce the overall cost of renewable energy projects, making them more affordable for all communities and ratepayers.
The federal government has a long history of incentivizing most if not all forms of energy production, so it just makes sense for it to continue to incentivize clean energy projects that actually address climate change.
About Lafayette Square
Lafayette Square is a commercially scaled investment platform built for and enhanced by our commitment to impact. We deploy long term capital alongside impactful services to local communities across America through our credit, real estate, and renewables divisions.
Our mission is to be the leading provider of impact driven capital working toward a more inclusive economy. For more information about Lafayette Square, please visit www.lafayettesquare.com.
We are innovators building a sustainable world. Invenergy and its affiliated companies develop, own, and operate large-scale sustainable energy generation and storage facilities in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Invenergy's home office is located in Chicago, and it has regional development offices in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Spain, Japan, Poland and Scotland. Invenergy has successfully developed more than 29,000 megawatts of projects that are in operation, construction or contracted, including wind, solar, transmission, and natural gas power generation facilities as well as advanced energy storage projects. For more information, please visit www.invenergy.com.
Media Contact for Reactivate:
Shree Dhond/ Doug Allen
Dukas Linden Public Relations