by: Anthony Kinslow II, Ph.D., CEM
The Urgency of Now - Gemini’s Opening a Seed Capital Raise
Over the past month, I have been introducing the work Gemini is leading in developing shovel ready Clean Energy Hubs [recent Webinar]. In doing so, it has become clear that as first movers in transforming community anchors into regenerative, clean energy ecosystems we have a unique opportunity and a unique responsibility.
By developing a Clean Energy Hub in the 13,581 environmentally and/or economically disadvantaged communities - Justice40 communities - we conservatively estimate the direct impact to be…
Note. Click here to see our growing clean energy ecosystem centering Black-owned businesses and non-profits and buttressed by organizations striving to accelerate our clean energy transition with equitable and inclusive solutions.
Recent Achievements and Accolades
Semifinalist, Black Ambition 2022
Black Ambition seeks to fund bold ideas and reduce barriers to capital for Black and Latinx entrepreneurs. The Black Ambition Prize is a tiered opportunity for early-stage Black and Latinx founders to receive investment funding for their businesses.
For more on Gemini’s recent activities check out our Gemini in the News Page
Inflation Reduction Act does not assure Equity
While these achievements represent the growing support for this issue, our goal is to ensure every community that historically has been excluded from the clean energy transition has access to a regenerative, clean energy ecosystem by 2030. These communities were designated Justice40 communities following the announcement of President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative. There are 13,581 census tracts that meet the criteria for a Justice 40 community, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. With the recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act which has $369 Billion allocated to energy and climate, an unprecedented amount of money will be available for these Justice40 communities.
Unfortunately, history shows us that money available to these communities does not mean money is actually spent in these communities. When President Obama passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2019, there was approximately $31 Billion to clean energy projects. That money ended up becoming a flash in the pan, with the status quo returning for many focused on environmental and energy justice only a few years later. We have learned from the mistakes of the past and like many of our partners and colleagues are working to ensure this influx of capital does not simply make a larger flash in the pan. Through rigorous analysis and dozens of interviews, we’ve identified four major ways the Billions allocated to Justice40 communities could be misappropriated, underutilized, restricted, or diluted. Gemini’s development of shovel ready Clean Energy Hubs seeks to mitigate all of them.
Continuing the Stewardship Model
The U.S. has a long history of excluding BIPOC individuals, families, communities, and organizations that are unable to manage funding and require a benevolent White (typically male) American or White-led organization to help them. This help comes in many ways such as controlling the amount of money they receive or what they can use the money for. And naturally, this benevolence requires the individual or organization to take a portion of those funds for the service they provide. I call this the stewardship model or trickle-down funding and it is an inefficient use of capital and worse still, inherently racist and insulting. It is also common practice in the Environmental and Energy space (Figure 1).
Gemini’s Clean Energy Hubs are working to circumvent the stewardship model with a better model (Figure 2). A community centered model, with the belief that those closest to the problem are also closest to the solution. A belief that local organizations have both the aptitude and willingness to receive money directly from the source without requiring a steward. A belief that our clean energy transition can accelerate if we give the people on the ground the resources to realize all that they are striving to achieve.
It is not often you find a volunteer or employee in a local non-profit who has the expertise to develop a shovel ready clean energy project. The ability to determine the feasibility of a revenue generating micro-grid, the development of a capital stack, connections to financing options that are not predatory, or the knowledge to procure both contractors and equipment. Technical expertise and a clean technology network to call upon is rare in communities that meet the Justice40 criteria. AND those are not the only types of capacity constraints that must be accounted for. Environmental and Energy Justice groups have been working with a tithe of the resources available to “Big Green” and negligible resources when contrasted with Utilities. The result is a lack of capacity:
Investment into Non-sustainable Efforts
I will never say money going to directly pay off someone’s energy bill is wasteful; however, would it not be a better use of the money to install energy efficient equipment reducing any future energy bill they would have to pay?
I would never say money going to a HBCU as a grant to lower student tuition is a waste; however, would it not be a more sustainable use of funds to transform the campus into a revenue-generating micro-grid where millions of dollars each year is saved and generated?
There are plenty of impactful ways to spend money in communities that have historically been underfunded. And some methods are more impactful and sustainable than others, having a multiplicative effect well into the future. The old adage of teaching a man how to fish, is well known for a reason. I spoke earlier about the unsustainable nature of the ARRA funding. I have found no better graph that illustrates this than one developed by my colleague Jill Ferguson showing the number of homes receiving energy efficiency upgrades by year (Figure 3.)
We need the Inflation Reduction Act money - that is allocated to Justice40 communities - to go toward solutions that will be able to both magnify and sustain the impact. The largest climate bill in U.S. history has just passed and we as a country are not well positioned to ensure it effectively reaches those who have historically been denied, avoided, and regulated.
A just energy transition cannot happen without communities who have historically been last, becoming first. The wealth disparities that exist can be minimized with a just clean energy transition. However, as of yet the U.S. has not been striving for a just transition. The transition has been too slow because it has been unjust. Today, there is a clear discrepancy by race and income of who has had access to clean energy, and it did not come about by accident. What is as stark, is what that access has looked like in terms of ownership, even when correcting for homeownership and income, see as Dr. Shalanda Baker breaks it down in 8 minutes. And instead of finding innovative ways to ensure the wealth generation of clean energy transition is at a minimum equally going to all people, the solar industry is actually exacerbating the problem. The EV and EV charging industry is culpable as well, although they have the benefit of being behind solar in development so they have an opportunity to make the course correction. Efforts by GM Equitable Climate Action are encouraging in that regard.
At Gemini, we prioritize an ownership model for our Clean Energy Hubs. As such, all revenue generating technology is owned by the community anchor to ensure they realize the full benefits. Local contractors maintain the equipment enabling workforce development on-site and spurring local job growth.
The Seed Capital Raise
I started Gemini to drastically increase the number of BIPOC people in the clean energy space. I created the concept of Clean Energy Hubs to act as a catalyst for that. And now, with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the initiation of Justice40, and the hiring of true justice leaders in the Federal Government (e.g., Shaland Baker, PhD and Tony Reames, PhD) there is a real chance for meaningful change. However, Gemini is not yet ready for it. I have the technical know-how (PhD in Energy Efficiency Analytics and Certified Energy Manager), I have the connections and relationships to the necessary networks. I have the certifications (ICP Investor Ready Energy Efficiency™ (IREE) Certification), I have the pedigree (Stanford PhD and HBCU Alum). However, I do not have the capacity to meet this historical moment alone.
My small, proud, and diverse team needs to grow. The clean energy ecosystem we are developing to maximize the impact of each Clean Energy Hub needs to grow. We need to connect with more community networks. We need to improve our proprietary platform to serve the communities faster.
As the first to be offering revenue-generating micro-grids powered by bi-directional EV charging stations. As one of the only for-profit entities prioritizing this service to Justice40 communities. We must solidify this first mover advantage. Not only to maximize Gemini’s growth but to ensure that those who come behind us offering these services must meet a standard of performance that Justice40 communities deserve. Twenty-four months from now when we are announcing our Series A round, I want to proclaim Clean Energy Hubs are no longer an innovative solution that is still being explored but rather a cornerstone of a just energy transition, an accelerated clean energy transition, a regenerative clean energy ecosystem.
I ask that you, the reader, join me.
We need to spread our message far and wide, with your help: Share and advocate to those who are investing in social entrepreneurship, clean energy, and Black Founders. Share with organizations that have authentic relationships with Justice40 communities. Share with your friends and family who are unaware that there are Black-led companies making waves in the Clean Energy Industry.
If you are an investor: Let’s connect. We are here. We are ready to make transformative change for those "hardest to reach". And…we cannot do it without you.
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