Justice is a global issue. While most of the work done in the Office of Energy Justice and Equity at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) focuses on domestic issues, for one week, the global fight for justice took center stage in Mexico.

At the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), we are achieving our national climate goals by driving the clean energy transition forward every day. And, by prioritizing equity and place-based strategies in our work, we are modeling approaches to a clean energy transition that delivers real benefits to underserved communities—including those historically overburdened by the energy system. 

DOE defines energy justice as “the goal of achieving equity in both the social and economic participation in the energy system, while also remediating social, economic, and health burdens on those disproportionately harmed by the energy system.” At its core, energy justice applies the basic principles of civil rights to climate space.

Hosted by the U.S. Mexican Embassy, The Honorable Shalanda Baker, Director of Office of Energy Justice and Equity, Secretarial Advisor on Equity and Chief Diversity Officer, spent five packed days in Mexico to share knowledge and lessons about how DOE’s approaches to advance a just and clean energy transition might benefit Mexico. 

Those familiar with Director Baker’s storied past as a trailblazer in the energy justice field know that in 2010, she saw first-hand the intersection of indigenous rights and the clean energy future. “In 2010, few understood the intersection of justice and energy. But the Indigenous people of Oaxaca did. They were ahead of everyone.” In Oaxaca, Baker witnessed Indigenous communities fighting against the lack of community consultation from developers when it came to the development of large scale wind developments.  

According to Baker, it’s no exaggeration to say that her experiences in Mexico contributed to her arsenal of justice fighting know how. And she continues to use the teachings from communities in Mexico in her work to advance energy justice in the U.S. 

Director Baker creates an energy equity discourse in Mexico City

In Mexico City, Director Baker participated in numerous discussions to exchange experiences, views, and opportunities. These vital conversations included:

  • Discussing the advancement of just and equitable energy transitions in Mexico and the United States in a series of roundtables with civil society, youth and women leaders, collegiate and higher learning faculty members, and members of nonprofit organizations.
  • Meeting with private sector stakeholders and government officials to discuss the pathway towards renewable energy sectors and Mexico’s efforts to secure a just energy transition for rural and Indigenous communities. 
  • Participating in a discourse with students and women in energy and science, technology, engineering and math about the challenges and opportunities for women in the sector and examining the importance current curriculum gives to energy transition and justice.

The Yucatan state provides stories and site visits.

Director Baker spent the second half of her trip in Merida in the Yucatan Peninsula where she focused on site visits and conversations with the Indigenous communities and local state officials of the state including:

  • Travelling to Tecoh, a city where the majority of the population is Maya, to meet with owners of residential solar, to understand how the energy transition is affecting Indigenous community without access to electricity.
  • Discussing the role of women in the energy transition with the Yucatan Sustainable Development Office and Yucatan SEMUJERES, which is the only Women Affairs office in Southern Mexico holding a Secretariat level.
  • Listening and learning from members of the Paraiso community of Progreso, Yucatan, about the benefits and challenges the community has faced since the development of large scale solar and wind parks.

The Importance of Exchange and Collaboration

During her visit, Director Baker remarked on the importance of the exchange of thoughts, experiences, and best practices to advance towards a just and equitable energy transition in the United States and Mexico.

“In the sense of marginalized communities fighting for justice, Mexico and the United States are closely related, sisters even, in the fight. And we should draw strength from one another. That’s, in part, what I hope to achieve…throughout my time in Mexico. To lean into our shared connections as people fighting for a more just and equitable future.”

Director Shalanda Baker meets with Ambassador Ken Salazar (second from right) to discuss equitable and inclusive efforts in North America’s energy transition.
Director Shalanda Baker meets with Ambassador Ken Salazar (second from right) to discuss equitable and inclusive efforts in North America’s energy transition.