Energy Exchange

Clean Energy: An Emerging Path for Latino Communities

chciBy: Andy Vargas, EDF Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Public Policy Fellow

Hispanic Heritage Month is in full swing! It has also been a welcome way to kick off my placement with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) as a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Public Policy Fellow. Each year, CHCI marks Hispanic Heritage Month with a Public Policy Conference elevating the issues most important to Latino communities. This year, I had the pleasure of representing both CHCI and EDF, introducing a panel on an emerging and critical topic for Latinos: clean energy.

Clean energy is key to protecting Latino communities from disproportionate impacts of climate change and pollution. At last week’s conference, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) highlighted that half the U.S. Latino population currently lives in the country’s most polluted cities. NHLA also noted that asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are more prevalent in inner city Latino communities near carbon-producing power plants.

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The Clean Power Plan: Driving Down Electricity Bills for Families

EDF Fellow Will Bittinger co-authored this postdollar-499481_1920

Here’s one fact you may not know about the Clean Power Plan – it can save you money.

The Clean Power Plan puts the first-ever nationwide limits on carbon pollution from power plants. It’s a crucial step in our efforts to combat climate chaos and protect public health. But it can also help American families save money.

EPA’s analysis of the Clean Power Plan concluded that once the rule is fully implemented in 2030, it will lower the average consumer bill by about seven percent.

The Consumers Union, Public Citizen, and the Illinois Citizens Utility Board – all groups that serve and protect electricity customers – have confirmed these benefits. In a compelling amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief, these three leading consumer advocacy groups highlighted the host of empirical evidence showing that the Clean Power Plan can drive electricity costs down and deliver substantial benefits to consumers, especially those in low-income communities.

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Why clean energy is center stage on International Day of Peace

poster-largeEach year since 1981, the United Nations (UN) recognizes an International Day of Peace on September 21. The day is intended to strengthen peace both within and among nations.

As an environmental advocate, I can’t help but think about the effects of climate change on the current state of global peace. And while there are a few climate deniers out there, those who have looked at the science are saying climate change poses a serious threat to global security and peace.

Fortunately, the UN agrees – which is why they chose to focus this year’s International Peace Day on Sustainable Development Goals. Unanimously adopted by all 193 UN member states, the Sustainable Development Goals are broken down into 17 focus areas and are part of a broader agenda to fight inequality, injustice, and climate change by 2030.

Goal 7 – “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all” – is a hugely important part of fostering global peace. The world needs affordable, reliable electricity to heat, cool, and power our homes, and to encourage economic growth. But we also need this electricity to be clean, modern, and efficient, so it doesn’t pollute our communities and exacerbate climate change.

Here are four ways the U.S. is doing our part to achieve an affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy system for all:

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Also posted in California, Data Access, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, Energy-Water Nexus, Grid Modernization, Illinois, New York, Solar Energy, Texas / Language: / Comments are closed

Eastside Sol Celebrates Community, Culture, and Clean Energy in Los Angeles

ess-2016-dancing-crowdBy: Luis Gutierrez, Senior Associate, Leadership for Urban Renewal Network (LURN) and Jorge Madrid, CA Campaign Director, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)

It’s a warm, sunny day in August at the iconic Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights, California. More than 400 local residents have come together to dance to the classic tunes of Selena and the cumbia-rock fusion of El Conjunto Nueva Ola – the entire stage powered by solar. They’re enjoying delicious vegan treats, participating in a live mural art project, and screen printing their own reusable tote bags. Many are collecting free shade trees to plant at home, learning about bicycle safety and receiving free helmets, and discovering information about a new vehicle trade-in program that allows Californians to swap out their older vehicles for a new or used electric car. So what exactly is this celebration of music, art, culture, and clean energy? It’s Eastside Sol.

Event organizers Jorge Madrid and Luis Gutierrez reflect on the origins of Eastside Sol, its driving principles, and what’s in store for the future.

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10 Reasons Why We Love Community Solar

Carlos Mandeville co-authored this post.SunFamily

This year is set to be another record-breaker for solar power: the industry is on pace to nearly double in size by the end of 2016, and there are now more than one million solar installations in the U.S. that generated more new electricity in the first quarter of the year than coal, natural gas, and nuclear combined. This is good news, in part because 2016 is also on track to be the hottest year in recorded history – awash in scorching hot solar rays we can tap for clean, renewable energy.

Unfortunately, solar power is still inaccessible to vast, unreached markets and segments of the U.S. population. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory says only 22 to 27 percent of residential rooftops are capable of hosting a solar system because of structural challenges, tree shading, or “ownership issues” – mainly households who rent, and cannot install solar panels on roofs they don’t own. Likewise, U.S. households who earn less than $40,000 per year (40 percent of the U.S. population) account for less than five percent of all solar installations.

But the solar game is changing. New models are emerging to complement and fill gaps in the market.

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Transforming an Energy Burden into an Energy Opportunity

Energy opportunityEconomic inequality has become one of the dominant political narratives of the day. It occupies discussions on both sides of the aisle, and is shaping elections from city halls to the White House. There’s a good reason for this: the continuing trends of flattening incomes, concentrated wealth, and deepening poverty are historic.

One place this reality is really hitting home for millions of Americans is on their monthly energy bill. For nearly one in three American families, paying a monthly energy bill is a challenge.

The energy burden, as the Department of Energy defines it, is the ratio of energy costs (which includes heating, cooling, appliances, and lighting from electricity, gas, and fuel sources) to household income. Nearly 40 percent of low-income households use electricity to heat their homes (the majority in the South and West), and are suffering a more severe energy burden because of factors like wage stagnation and the quality of housing at lower economic levels.  In 2014, researchers looking at the “energy affordability gap” for low income households (the difference between actual energy bills and what is considered affordable) tabulated it at almost $45 billion nationally. That is an increase of 16 percent from 2011, with nearly 60 percent of the growth accounted for by states in the mid-South, South, and east of the Mississippi. For any of those families, even a 10 percent growth in electricity costs can be destabilizing. Monthly electric bills become another factor forcing households to choose between groceries, childcare, and medical bills.

To make inroads in closing the energy affordability gap and reducing energy burdens for the most vulnerable, Environmental Defense Fund believes we need a combination of greater and scalable clean energy investment in low- and moderate-income communities, and a focus on empowering the many faces that are energy-burdened. The multi-billion dollar affordability gap certainly poses a variety of financial risks, but it’s also rife with opportunity. Read More »

Also posted in California, Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, North Carolina, On-bill repayment, Renewable Energy, Solar Energy / Language: / Comments are closed