Volunteers Help Bring Solar to Low-Income Homeowners

Edison International employees partner with Grid Alternatives to help install solar panels for low-income families.

Soledad Ramirez was out of work for 12 months and eventually lost her home. She was living on floors with three separate relatives until Habitat for Humanity helped her get back on her feet with an affordable home — one she helped build.

But the home came with bills — including water, power and trash. Ramirez admired home solar and knew it could help, but it wasn’t something she could afford. GRID Alternatives, an organization that works to provide low-cost solar for families living with limited incomes, recently changed that by giving her a rooftop solar system. 

Edison International volunteers, headed by Southern California Edison’s EcoIQ employee resource group, partnered with GRID Alternatives to install the solar panels on three homes built by Habitat for Humanity in Lynwood, including Ramirez’s.

“An important policy in California is to support rooftop solar, so SCE frequently works with GRID Alternatives to help advance this goal,” said Marissa Blunschi, SCE project manager and EcoIQ president. “It’s important for us to consider disadvantaged communities with customers who equally deserve to reap the benefits of renewable energy.”

The recent event is one of 10 Seasons of Service volunteer events organized by SCE’s employee resource groups each year in which they partner with a nonprofit and provide a $5,000 grant.

GRID Alternatives uses a volunteer model in which people come out to help with installations, whether it be corporate sponsors, job trainees, college students or someone looking to gain skills.

“It’s so cool when a family starts to learn more about electricity, develops a degree of self-sufficiency, and now, instead of just randomly turning things on and off and getting a bill, they have a sense of, ‘Oh we’re producing this much electricity ourselves and we’re using this much,’” said Michael Kadish, GRID Alternatives executive director. “So there’s a real empowerment through the understanding of power.”

Throughout the entire installation, Ramirez was right there with the volunteers, ready to help.

“One of my mottos is, ‘The purpose of life is to live a life of purpose,’” said Ramirez. “And that’s what you’re here for on Earth. You’re here to help.”