SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
1. Floridians Protest Utilities Gone Wild
Citizens raise pitchforks and torches in St. Petersburg against Duke Energy
In late October, 200 or so St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay Area residents raised their pitchforks in protest outside Duke Energy Florida’s headquarters in St. Petersburg. The protest was in response to years of Duke’s blatant disregard for customers’ interests, including gross mismanagement of the Crystal River nuclear plant and canceled Levy County nuclear plant (costing customers $3 billion), corrupt participation in the political process, bill overcharges, hostility toward clean energy sources such as solar and energy efficiency, and other grievances.
SACE hosted the protest, spurred by what our executive director, Stephen Smith, wrote last month was the “utilities’ arrogance and refusal to engage in serious discussion.”
Duke customers are sick and tired of the power company “sticking it to them,” so the protest gave attendees the opportunity to “stick it to their power bill” by pitchforking an oversized replica of a real Duke Energy power bill. Also, SACE offered participants a “refund” for one month of the nuclear tax they are paying each month to Duke for the non-existent Levy County nuclear plant or a free lunch–since utilities aren’t the only ones who should get a free lunch.
Speakers at the protest included Darden Rice and Karl Nurse, St. Petersburg City Council members; Mary Wilkerson, owner of Gulfside Resorts in Indian Rocks Beach; Debbie Dooley, co-founder of the Green Tea Coalition and co-founder of Conservatives For Energy Freedom; Tory Perfetti, Florida Director of Conservative for Energy Freedom; State Representative Dwight Dudley; and SACE’s Executive Director, Stephen Smith, and Florida Director, Susan Glickman. The speeches echoed similar sentiments that Duke is failing its customers time and again by prioritizing shareholder profits at customers’ expense, manipulating the political process via campaign contributions and lobbying, and stifling customer choice, the free market, and positive economic development by blocking opportunities for clean energy deployment.
As Stephen Smith said in the blog before the event, “we believe that in a free society, customers and citizens have a right to express themselves clearly and strongly.”
2. Solar for All in Memphis
Solar shines on TN African American communities
Just like BBQ, there is plenty of sunshine to go around in Memphis. Unlike BBQ, however, sunshine is free and capturing it to create electricity benefits everyone. Memphis is one of the few minority majority large cities in the South and has historically been plagued by poverty. A growing mass of information shows that clean energy – renewable energy and energy efficiency – benefits low-income and African American communities. A clean energy economy can offer solutions to the poverty problem in Memphis and we can start building this economy by encouraging the growth of local solar energy.
Memphis is home to several shining examples of solar benefiting African American and low-income communities. We wanted to bring attention to these projects, since it appears that some have overlooked examples like these when making spurious claims that clean energy does not benefit, and even negatively impacts, minority communities.
Ten years ago, BRIDGES, a Memphis based nonprofit that helps promote local community and racial cohesion, installed 176 solar panels on the roof of their building. This system is capable of providing 30 kW of clean energy. These panels have helped to keep BRIDGES’ utility bills low, enabling the group to use their funding to unite and inspire the youth of Memphis.
Also in 2004, Power Source Plus (a West TN solar installation company), Carnes Elementary School (a public school serving mostly African American families) and Memphis Light Gas and Water (MLGW) partnered up to install a 27 kW system on the roof of the school. By installing solar, Carnes Elementary has been able to save significant money on its electricity bills and focus its resources on its students. What’s more, the children at Carnes Elementary have the rare opportunity to learn about the benefits of solar generation first-hand and witness the true benefits of investments in a clean energy economy.
In 2012, Memphis leaders announced development of 34 new three-bedroom, single-family homes with roof-top solar in the historically African-American Frayser neighborhood. These homes will be the first phase of the Wolf River Bluffs project, which aims to build 300 energy efficient homes to serve low-income families in Frayser. The new homes will be an important upgrade for a neighborhood struggling with declining property values, said Steve Lockwood, executive director of the Frayser Community Development Corp.
Most recently, the Memphis Slim Collaboratory installed solar panels on its roof in September 2014. The Collaboratory is a resurrection of local legend Memphis Slim’s old house and is located in a low-income, African American community in Memphis. The Memphis Slim Collaboratory offers local artists and musicians a venue to collaborate, rehearse and record music and also provides office space to local community development groups, like Community Lift.
Ashley Cash, Community Development Director for Community LIFT, stated they “knew that with so many musicians using the recording studio, the building would use an enormous amount of energy. Therefore, having the solar panels installed would be very cost effective.” Ms. Cash added that “as far as whether or not African American homes can also benefit from solar, the answer is YES. I believe all homes can benefit from the reduced energy costs that solar power provides and that these savings are most important for low-income communities.”
As you can see from these examples, solar does benefit low-income, minority communities. SACE will continue to work to bring more clean, affordable energy to Memphis and will continue to serve as a strong advocate of solar, especially in low-income communities.
SACE has continued our work with Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) this Fall, speaking at several events in Georgia to highlight clean fuel vehicle strategies to cut oil consumption, reduce emissions and cut transportation costs. Driving an electric vehicle has significant benefits, even in areas where electricity comes from the dirtiest sources. According to a Union of Concerned Scientists’ report, sixty percent of American’s now live in regions where an EV produces fewer global warming emissions than even the most efficient gasoline-hybrid vehicle.
Georgia, specifically Atlanta, has experienced the most substantial growth of any state in the country and is now the fastest growing market for electric cars in the country. In the past year, electric vehicle sales have grown more 614% in the Peach State. Much of the growth of EVs in Georgia is due to the state’s generous tax credit for zero emissions vehicles as well as access to HOV/HOT lanes on highways and access to low time of use (TOU) electricity rates. Georgia Power has also recently committed to a new initiative in which they will be investing $12 million in charging infrastructure in the state. This will be a huge boost to EV use in Georgia, increasing driver range confidence. We commend Georgia Power for this important investment in cleaner vehicles. In addition to Georgia Power’s pilot program, the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) recently awarded rebates to 18 universities and municipalities in Georgia for the installation of forty-four new electric vehicle charging stations as part of their Charge Georgia program.
SACE’s clean fuels director, Anne Blair, is proud to be a part of that 614% growth, having just become a new LEAF driver herself. She leased her new EV from Nalley Nissan in Decatur, GA. Please follow her stories coming soon and on our blog. Two weeks in and she is loving her oil-free transition.
While the growth trajectory is encouraging, EVs remain less than 2% of registered vehicles in Georgia and Georgia’s tax credit for zero emissions vehicles remains at risk in the coming year. To support our growing commitment to increasing use of clean fuel technologies, like EVs, and gear up for increased education efforts on this important issue, SACE and the Union of Concerned Scientists are hosting a happy hour for our members in Georgia. Please join us for happy hour at Manuel’s Tavern in Atlanta on at 5pm on November 19 – you can RSVP here.
We look forward to continuing our work together with you to promote electric vehicles and other responsible energy choices throughout Georgia and the Southeast. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to get more involved.
The Georgia Water Coalition, of which SACE is a member, recently announced the “Dirty Dozen” for 2014, highlighting the year’s worst offenses to Georgia’s waters and identifying state policies and failures that harm property owners, taxpayers, up-and-downstream communities, recreational users and fish and wildlife. Polluting and water-intensive existing and proposed nuclear and coal-fired power plants were again chosen. The full report details each culprit.
The two water-guzzling nuclear reactors under construction at Plant Vogtle along the imperiled Savannah River now has the dubious distinction of making the Dirty Dozen list three years in a row! The Savannah River is struggling, having been deemed the third most toxic river in the country earlier this year (up from 4th place last year).
Currently, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) is considering finalizing a massive surface water withdrawal permit for the proposed reactors. SACE and our partners provided extensive comments that you can access here. To put the projected consumptive water loss from Vogtle in perspective, the two existing and two proposed reactors alone could consume enough water to supply over one million Georgians with drinking water. EPD is also reviewing a surface water discharge permit application request and may issue a draft permit for public review before the end of this year. If these permits are issued, the many serious problems affecting the Savannah River will worsen.
Georgia Power’s Plant Hammond near Rome along the Coosa River was also selected. Since the mid 1950s, this coal plant has sucked millions of gallons of water a day from the river, used it cool the plant’s coal-fired power generators and then sent most of it back to the Coosa as hot water. Now, more than 40 years after the passage of the Clean Water Act and more than a decade after state tests showed the Coosa was suffering from depleted oxygen—one consequence of the hot water discharge—EPD has still not required the company to install a cooling system that would dramatically reduce water use at the plant and restore healthy oxygen levels in the river.
The annual Dirty Dozen report reflects the negative impacts that the electricity sector has and will continue to have on Georgia’s precious water resources unless wiser decisions are made about the state’s energy future. Last year a coal ash waste impoundment site at Plant Scherer on the Ocmulgee made the list as did Plant Washington, one of the last new coal plant proposals in the country due to the threat it poses to the Ogeechee and Oconee rivers. Thankfully that proposal is nearly dead. You can find an update on previous Dirty Dozen selections at the end of the full report.
There are solutions. Affordable, reliable, less water intensive energy options, such as wind, solar and energy efficiency, can protect our water resources all while reducing carbon emissions. It’s past time for the crucial connection between energy and water to be at the forefront of decision-making in Georgia and across the region