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GRID Alternatives: Mission, History and Future

GRID Alternatives’ mission is to empower communities in need by providing renewable energy and energy efficiency services, equipment and training. We believe making energy choices that are good for the environment can go hand-in-hand with improving the lives of those living in low-income communities. GRID Alternatives works collaboratively with communities and local organizations to identify specific needs and to develop renewable energy solutions that are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

Currently, GRID Alternatives’ core program is the Solar Affordable Housing Program, where we train and lead community volunteers and job trainees from all walks of life to install solar electric systems with low-income homeowners.


GRID Alternatives was founded during the 2001 California energy crisis by Erica Mackie, P.E., and Tim Sears, P.E., two engineering professionals who were implementing large-scale renewable energy and energy efficiency projects for the private sector. The vision that drove them was simple: why is free, clean electricity from the sun only available to big businesses and wealthy environmentalists, when it should be available to everybody? They wanted to develop a model to make this technology practical and accessible for low-income communities that need the savings the most, and where families often live in the shadow of polluting fossil-fuel power plants.

Every solar installation is a renewable energy “barn raising” that brings together environmental activists, advocates for low-income communities, green job trainees, community volunteers, and the homeowners themselves to participate in a fun, hands-on project that delivers immediate, tangible results: a fully installed solar electric system that provides immediate economic benefits to a local low-income family.

Tim and Erica’s work creating GRID Alternatives was recognized in 2010 when they were honored with a James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award for advancing “innovative, proven and replicable solutions to critical issues facing California”:


Since piloting our Solar Affordable Housing Program with two installations in 2004, GRID Alternatives has grown rapidly, and now has offices throughout California. We now complete hundreds of projects every year – visit our By the Numbers page to see our total accomplishments to date. Our model has been purposefully created to allow us to replicate it in response to community need, while maintaining a strong grassroots presence and regionalism even as we grow. We are in the process of developing an affiliate model based on these principles that will allow us to expand into other states in the years ahead. Keep following this space or sign up for our newsletter in the lower right corner for more information, or you can email us at


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