Clean Water Action has served since 2008 on the Steering Committee of the Green Justice Coalition (GJC), a partnership between labor and grassroots justice groups across Massachusetts, convened by our good friends at Community Labor United. Over the years, GJC has won a string of victories by growing the collective people power of community-based organizations, organized labor and environmental justice groups. Among these are major increases in funding for public transit, unprecedented access for many to energy efficiency programs, and green infrastructure included in ongoing planning processes.
Clean Water currently coordinates the GJC’s statewide energy efficiency campaign, which has been responsible for both raising and advancing almost all of the state’s gains in improved access for underserved residents. This has opened up new pathways for people who rent, non-English speakers and moderate-income households to the many benefits of energy efficiency, including lower energy costs and more comfortable homes. In addition, we’ve won healthy and family-sustaining job standards for industry workers, and helped the state find innovative ways to meet its climate pollution reduction goals.
A study by the MA Attorney General’s Office confirmed recently that efficiency is by far the cheapest and most effective tool available in our energy ‘toolbelt’ to both avoid the new gas pipeline boondoggle and meet our obligations to reduce climate emissions. Common sense points to ramping up investment in this clean ‘fuel’, while holding administrators accountable for unfair barriers faced by our constituents.
We’re now working with our GJC partners to explore exciting new energy campaigns, providing a voice for solid renewable energy policies while helping build local energy democracy and resilient energy systems with the climate crisis in mind. Read more about the solar power in Massachusetts and knock down barriers for all our communities. Our emerging vision involves siting community shared solar projects and clean energy microgrids in formerly industrial ‘Gateway’ communities, and all communities with a desire for clean local energy.
In January 2016, the state Department of Public Utilities (DPU) approved a third 3-Year Plan for energy efficiency programs, which GJC and our partners invested significant effort to help develop. Working through a planning process over the previous year with members of the policy-focused Energy Efficiency Advisory Council, utility companies that run these programs day-to-day, and state agencies that oversee it all, GJC mobilized a large statewide member base to achieve major successes in this 3-Year Plan. GJC also intervened formally in the DPU legal process.
As a result, an exciting new development: for the first time the Plans include an innovative Renter-Specific Initiative that will offer efficiency services to tenants directly. There are also strong commitments to improving language access, both in initial call-center conversations as well as the all-important followup process. And more moderate-income families can now receive enhanced financial incentives through an expansion of the existing low-income program. Our task going forward: to watchdog how these programs roll out or can be improved, and to keep pushing for smarter investments that ensure equitable access and capture smart pathways to reduce energy use statewide.
The Bad News: A major flaw in the Plan however, is the failure of the EEAC and state agencies to fight off a proposal by utilities to set weak energy savings goals for the Commercial and Industrial (C&I) sector. Why this is so important: This sector is far larger than the Residential one, so C&I savings targets will have to be strengthened if we are going to meet our climate emissions reduction targets.
With energy efficiency being the cheapest and most effective way to meet our energy needs and prevent ratepayers being saddled with expensive new gas pipelines, not to mention generating thousands of decent jobs in an entirely new industry, GJC is proud of our track record so far. And with so much opportunity on the horizon, we’re already looking ahead to the next opportunities to democratize and de-carbonize our energy sector.