Clean Energy Initiative


There are 105 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in the United States, including public and private institutions, community and four-year institutions, and medical and law schools, with more than 228,000 students enrolled.  Fifty-six institutions are under private control, and 51 are public colleges and universities.  HBCUs award 40 percent of baccalaureate degrees earned by black college students (U.S. Department of Education). Additionally, the areas where HBCUs are situated have higher levels of poverty than the United States as a whole. Compare 15.6% poverty rate in the United States to 24.2% in Baltimore, MD, 18.2% in Washington, D.C., 19.2% in Nashville, TN, and 23.5% in Montgomery, AL.


The Historically Black Colleges and Universities Community Development Action Coalition (CDAC or the Coalition) has a strong record of advocating on behalf of, and leading engagement with, HBCUs and within the HBCU community.  Founded in 2010, the CDAC is a national non-profit resource that promotes, supports, and advocates for historically black colleges and universities, minority-serving institutions (MSIs) and community development corporations (CDCs), in their work to build healthy and sustainable communities.



The CDAC administers the HBCU Clean Energy Coalition in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).  This is an outgrowth of conversations started at the Coalition’s “Opportunities in the Innovation Economy Summit” in early 2016. The summit invited HBCUs, CDCs, technology-related organizations, economic development professionals and students to dialogue around how HBCUs can use technology to transform their campuses and communities, and how they can become leaders in the innovation economy. The DOE representatives attended the summit to highlight the work of the Baltimore Solar Initiative working with Baltimore area HBCUs and became interested in working with CDAC to foster increased solar access by HBCUs.

By providing technical assistance, DOE supports the CDAC to strategically engage the nation’s HBCUs in the adoption of solar and other renewable energies on campus and within the communities where they are located by low and moderate-income individuals, homeowners, business owners, local government, non-profit organizations and faith-based institutions.  One of the strength of this partnership takes advantage of CDAC and the HBCUs history of success in engaging the African American community.  These efforts are intended to position HBCUs as a demonstrated national and global leader in low income clean energy economic opportunity and preparing local residents and the workforce development system to respond to the demand of the solar and energy efficiency industries while creating a more diverse workforce.


CDAC has a long history of economic development project management, including One University Place at Jackson State University, a $18M facility, with 78 luxury apartments and 22,000 square feet of retail space – the largest development in West Jackson, Mississippi in 30 years and the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff Business Incubator, a $4M one-stop empowerment business center for women and minority businesses, inclusive of banks, restaurants retail and office space. In addition, CDAC has collaborated with a range of national, regional and local organizations, like Elevate Energy, NeighborWorks, PosiGen, the National Cooperative Banks.


In addition to the Clean Energy Initiative, CDAC has established a number of initiatives to spur economic activity in HBCU communities. These initiatives include:

  • Working with the Opportunity Finance Network to connect Community Development Financial Institutions to HBCUs to finance a range of projects.
  • Working with national technology organizations that support CDAC’s efforts to connect HBCU students to opportunities in the tech industry and other fields using various tech projects.
  • Building healthier HBCU communities initiative that will connect with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and other organizations focused on healthy communities.
  • Launching a new effort around supporting HBCU-centered small business incubators and developing business accelerators programs and co-work space facilities on HBCU campuses and in their communities.
  • Bringing more financial education activities to HBCU campuses and community in partnerships with banks, and other financial institutions.
  • Real estate development to identify, structure and complete deals.


Participating HBCUs have varying experience in conducting solar energy projects that can be replicated across a broad range of HBCUs and within their local communities. Morgan State University and Prairie View A&M University are two schools with prior experience in solar energy projects. Morgan State University launched the Morgan Solar Energy Initiative, which gathered a team of students, staff, sustainable energy industry professionals, DOE representatives and volunteers to install solar panels on physical infrastructure for a mile in the Morgan State community. Participating HBCUs are:


• Benedict University2,447Columbia, South Carolina
• Claflin University1978Orangeburg, South Carolina
• Coppin State University 3000Baltimore, Maryland
• Florida Memorial University1800Miami, Florida
• Johnson C. Smith University1501Charlotte, North Carolina
• Morgan State University7698Baltimore, Maryland
• Norfolk State University7035Norfolk, Virginia
• Prairie View A & M University6905Prairie View, Texas
• Southern University 11,881NO, BR, Shreveport
• Tennessee State University9027Nashville, Tennessee
• Texas Southern9646Houston, Texas
• U of Maryland Eastern Shores4433Eastern Shores, Maryland
• U of the Virgin Island2138US Virgin Island