Member Spotlight: Nora Hawkins

In May 2024, Solar Washington interviewed Nora Hawkins who is a member and a board member of Solar Washington.  

Solar Washington: How did you become interested in solar? 
Nora Hawkins: In the fall of 2017, I joined the Washington, DC Department of Energy & Environment to work on their Solar for All program which aims to reduce the electric bills of 100,000 income qualified district residents in half through the deployment of solar throughout the city. Prior to joining DC government, I worked on energy and environmental programs in the federal government. While that work was fascinating and had far reaching impacts, I found a new sense of fulfillment working on clean energy projects and energy burden reduction in my local community. It was rewarding to visit project sites but even more so to meet the residents who would benefiting from the solar that was being installed. I also had the privilege to work with brilliant and dedicated colleagues at DOEE and to learn from our grantees who were piloting innovative ways to get the benefits of solar to residents in various housing types throughout the city. Through my experience working for the city of DC, I recognized the ability of distributed solar to make the clean energy transition tangible at the local level.

SW: Why did you join Solar Washington (and eventually the board) and what do you expect from Solar Washington?
NH: I was approached by a former board member about running for the Solar Washington Board in 2022. I already knew about the organization but as I dug deeper, I became more and more impressed by the mission of Solar Washington to serve as an education focused nonprofit. I was delighted to join the board in 2023. Serving as a Solar Washington board member also aligns well with my day job working on renewable energy policy at the Department of Commerce and I’ve had the chance to partner with Solar Washington to help increase awareness of grant programs, clean energy projects, and other public engagement opportunities at the Department of Commerce. I am eager to continue to work with Solar Washington to help new communities in Washington learn about and benefit from solar.

SW: What is next for you regarding solar?

Nora Hawkins (center) visit the solar installation at the Yakama Nation

NH: I collaborated with colleagues on Commerce’s proposal for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Solar for All opportunity under which the EPA recently announced that Washington would receive $156 million over the next five years to deploy solar to reduce the electric bills of those who struggle to cover the costs of their energy needs. Over the next year, Commerce will continue to refine our program implementation plans which will likely include solar installations for income qualified homeowners, funding to catalyze community solar projects, and a tribal solar program that will be co-developed with tribes in Washington. Although funding won’t be available until mid-2025, I am excited to see future projects deployed for the benefit of communities that have historically faced barriers to accessing solar. In my time at Commerce, I’ve had the privilege to visit and learn about many creative, thoughtful, innovative tribal solar projects and I also look forward to supporting ongoing tribal leadership on clean energy via Solar for All funding.

SW: Can you share any lessons you learned during your solar experience?
NH: Throughout my various roles working on clean energy, one thing that that has become abundantly clear is that we will need a wide diversity of clean energy resources to effectively mitigate climate change while ensuring that energy remains reliable. It’s critical that we have all hands on deck for this transition: from the individual supporting solar in their local community to the homeowner working to electrify their home to the utility company working to decarbonize electricity and modernize the electric grid. We all have a role to play and I am excited to see residential customers, in particular, embracing new opportunities to engage with their energy use through demand response, distributed generation and storage, and time varying rates. My work involves constantly evaluating different tradeoffs when it comes to clean energy. One example is that we know distributed solar is about three times as expensive as larger, transmission-interconnected solar projects but the later can have siting issues with other land uses and tribal rights and resources. There is so much opportunity to innovate new solutions in the clean energy space and these solutions are not only being developed by research institutions and private ventures but also emerging from within communities

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  • Chantal Stevens
    published this page in Member Spotlight 2024-05-07 08:56:03 -0700

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