Hispanic Heritage Month: Recognizing Latino Energy and Climate Leaders in Oregon

Mes de la Herencia Hispana: Reconociendo a líderes latinos en el campo de la energía y el clima en Oregón

Many Latino communities have a longstanding tradition of conserving energy and resources deeply rooted in their culture. Latino leaders across the state of Oregon are safeguarding the planet for future generations and preserving their cultural and environmental legacies.  

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re spotlighting some of these amazing leaders and their work.  

Changemaker: Rosa Martinez is paving the way for other Latino-owned businesses in the construction industry. Martinez has helped level the playing field by founding LatinoBuilt, a local trade association whose mission is to address inequalities within the industry by improving the opportunities in construction for Latino-owned businesses in Oregon. Learn more about Martinez’s story and how she supports others in a traditionally male-dominated industry. 

Solar Ambassador: Maria Dolores Torres is making solar energy more accessible for underserved communities. Torres is the Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator for Adelante Mujeres, an organization dedicated to empowering Latinas and their families. She represents one of seven community-based organizations educating and developing new strategies to bring the benefits of solar energy to communities of color through the Solar Ambassador pilot program. Learn more about Torres and the Solar Ambassadors’ goal of connecting more Oregonians to clean, renewable energy. 

Changemaker: Ernesto Fonseca of Hacienda Community Development Corporation addresses how energy efficiency can create healthier homes. Based in Northeast Portland, Hacienda CDC provides affordable housing, homeownership support, economic and educational opportunities to Latino, Black, Indigenous, immigrant and low-income households most at risk of displacement. Learn more about Fonseca and Hacienda CDC’s mission and the power of healthy homes. 

Changemaker: Karla Flores Jaime is paying it forward by supporting Hispanic engineers. Flores Jaime is a mechanical engineer at SSOE Group, an architecture and engineering firm that designs manufacturing facilities for the automotive, pharmaceutical and semiconductor industries. She also serves as the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) Oregon Professional Chapter’s president. The chapter hosts workshops and events that support professional and personal development. Learn more about Flores Jaime’s experience as a Latina engineer and involvement in SHPE.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Latinos are more likely to suffer the effects of extreme weather events like heat waves and floods and are typically more concerned about these issues than non-Latino communities. Also, according to a study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Latino households spend, on average, 20% more of their income on energy costs compared to non-Hispanic white households. 

These statistics highlight the importance of supporting the voices of Oregon’s Latino leaders who empower community members to adopt and maintain efficient energy sources and behaviors – and improve their quality of life in doing so.  

Energy Trust offers support for community leaders through grants, resources and collaborative opportunities to co-create programs that cater to the needs of Latino community members across the state. From March 2022 to January 2023, Energy Trust distributed $10k in Working Together Grants to 21 non-profit organizations, including LatinoBuilt and Hacienda CDC, aimed at helping diverse customers and communities save energy and adopt clean, renewable energy sources. Energy Trust has also partnered with organizations like LatinoBuilt and Adelante Mujeres to develop customized programs and improve access to energy-efficient appliances, such as ductless heat pumps.