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According to a report from the Department of Energy’s Office of Policy, there were over 7.8 million energy jobs in the United States in 2021. In an effort to support historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in clean energy research, Dominion Energy pledged $25 million, and the Department of Energy (DOE) has also funded HBCUs for biofuel and solar-plus-storage projects. (Photo contributor: Scharfsinn, Shutterstock.com)

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Teams promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in energy research have been awarded prizes, and the DOE plans to invest in solar and nuclear energy, energy storage, carbon capture, and efficient use of minerals through funding opportunities.

In May 2023, Howard University became the first HBCU on the governing alliance board of directors for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, creating opportunities for underrepresented students to pursue careers in renewable energy.

The DOE also announced the HBCU Clean Energy Education Prize, worth $7.75 million, to encourage HBCU institutions to create programs that increase the participation of K-12 and community college students in STEM fields related to clean energy.

The goal is to expand clean energy education for younger generations and establish partnerships that lead to clean energy career opportunities. Over 100 HBCU institutions across the United States are eligible to compete in one or both prize tracks.

The DOE has partnered with over 100 HBCUs and minority-serving institutions to address racial disparities in energy systems and research, earning recognition from 15 ABET-accredited HBCU engineering schools as one of the top 5 government agencies supporting HBCUs in 2023.

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University has opened the Center for Electrochemical Dynamics and Reactions on Surfaces (CEDARS), which will focus on clean energy initiatives such as splitting hydrogen and oxygen from water to create clean hydrogen for energy use.

CEDARS is an interdisciplinary effort funded by a four-year $10.35 million grant from the DOE. North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is the only HBCU among the 43 universities and national laboratories to receive over $400 million in Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRC) funding.

With the university’s $23 million Steps4Growth clean energy workforce training award combined with this award, the center aims to create a net-zero emissions economy and promote diversity in clean energy.

The increase in global temperatures caused by the burning of fossil fuels has led to significant consequences, such as the risk of climate change and the occurrence of extreme weather events.

The Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (DSCEJ) recently released a report detailing its community-focused efforts over the past two years.

Their goal is to empower communities that have historically been impacted by environmental racism and promote community-led solutions to address the climate crisis while prioritizing ecological justice. Thanks to philanthropic funding and high-profile engagements with federal, state, and local lawmakers, DSCEJ has made significant progress.

Dr. Beverly Wright, the executive director and founder of DSCEJ was appointed by the Biden Administration to the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council in 2021. Her role was to provide recommendations on addressing environmental injustice to the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council (IAC) and the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). This appointment gave Dr. Wright and DSCEJ a platform to ensure that environmental justice communities’ priorities were addressed in Washington.

The Biden Administration’s commitment to environmental justice began with the announcement of Justice40. This approach ensures that historically disadvantaged communities receive 40 percent of federal investments in clean energy solutions.

DSCEJ was involved in various engagements with the administration, including EPA Administrator Michael Regan’s Journey to Justice tour. DSCEJ organized a “toxic tour” throughout Cancer Alley to bring awareness to the devastating effects of living with highly polluting industries in your backyard. Administrator Regan took an immersive tour, and the EPA issued enforcement actions to address air pollution, unsafe drinking water, and other issues.

The EPA announced the creation of the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights in September 2022. This office will better advance environmental justice by enforcing civil rights laws in overburdened communities and providing new grants and technical assistance.

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