Episode 4

April 24, 2023


Energy Democracy: Power to the People

Hosted by

Jaron Burke Lonnie J. Portis
Energy Democracy: Power to the People
Uptown Chats
Energy Democracy: Power to the People

Apr 24 2023 | 01:09:41


Show Notes

We need renewable (and affordable) energy now! Jaron and Lonnie are joined by two experts to discuss solutions for addressing the disproportionate burden that low-income communities and communities of color experience when it comes to their energy bill.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:10] Speaker A: Welcome to Uptown Chats, a podcast where we share stories about environmental justice by and for everyday people. I'm your co host, Lonnie, and I'm. [00:00:18] Speaker B: Your other co host, Jaren. And we both work at weact for environmental justice. [00:00:22] Speaker A: Jaren, what is we act's mission? [00:00:24] Speaker B: We exhibition is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and or low income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. [00:00:37] Speaker A: That's what we do. [00:00:38] Speaker B: That's what we do. Unfortunately, today we are both trying to stay cool because it is unseasonably warm outside, and we both know what that means. People are starting to turn on their air conditioners, even us. Right, Lonnie? [00:00:52] Speaker A: Yeah, I don't like to talk about being hot or the heat. It's a very touchy subject for me. But we definitely had to turn that AC on. [00:00:58] Speaker B: Yes. I walked into the office yesterday, and Lonie was a little grumpy because it was a little toasty outside and inside. And so we turned on the air conditioner in our office for a couple hours. And of course, when those acs start turning on, we know that also means that that energy usage is going up. And I got a little nervous when I saw that temperature going up because I knew my energy bill was just around the corner. In fact, I just paid my utility bill yesterday, and luckily, March was fairly moderate. It's not super hot, not super cold, so my bill was not terrible. But I know it's getting warmer out. So I know just around the corner that bill is going to go right back up. And honestly, I thought it'd be fun to go through it, because today, what are we talking about? [00:01:44] Speaker A: We talk about energy democracy today. [00:01:46] Speaker B: Yeah. And so I thought it might be fun to go through my energy bill really quickly and look at, it's kind of complicated. It's a little bit messy. There's this chart that's supposed to be at the top. There's just nothing there. And kind of just given up on telling me about my daily usage. It's like, yeah, you use a lot of energy. Stop using it. [00:02:04] Speaker A: Yes. Actually, my situation, the way my rent is all set up, it's all included. So I don't actually see a separate bill. So it's exciting for you to go through. [00:02:13] Speaker B: You don't even get a bill? [00:02:15] Speaker A: No, I don't have to see somebody gets a bill. [00:02:18] Speaker B: Somebody gets a bill. Well, in case you wanted to see it, this is what it looks like. This is what my bill looks like. Do you want to read out that total amount for me? [00:02:24] Speaker A: 182 dollarsthirthirty cents. [00:02:26] Speaker B: Yes. That's for a month, which is not terrible. Luckily, I split that with one other person's. So it's about $90 per person. Is this good? Is this bad? That's on the low end. Some months it gets over 300 if it's hot or if it's really cold. [00:02:39] Speaker A: Have you calculated whether or not you were energy burdened? [00:02:42] Speaker B: I actually haven't. I should do that. Maybe after this episode I'll sit down and actually do that to find out. [00:02:48] Speaker A: It'd be nice to know what percentage you are paying of your income. [00:02:51] Speaker B: I have never thought to do that. And anyone who's listening to this, you should do that. You take your energy bill. How do you calculate if you're energy burdened? [00:02:57] Speaker A: I guess you would take all of your bills for, let's say, a year. Let's just say, let's go back last year, 2022, add up each month's bill, and then take that and divide that and divide your salary by that number. Yes. And then multiply it by 100. And that will give you a percentage of how much you spend on your energy bills. [00:03:20] Speaker B: There you go. [00:03:21] Speaker A: And ideally, you should be sending 6% or less. [00:03:24] Speaker B: Wow. Okay. 6% or less. I don't know if I'm below that. I have to go look. [00:03:30] Speaker A: Yeah. If you're not, we're going to have to do some advocacy for you. [00:03:34] Speaker B: Yes. Well, this is actually interesting because have you ever had a con ed bill before? [00:03:38] Speaker A: Well, I've never actually seen. No, this is perfect. [00:03:40] Speaker B: This is like a great experiment that we have right in front of us right now. You should just look through this and tell me that this is your first time looking at it. Okay. Where would you look first? Like, let's walk through this. Let's get a beginner's eye perspective on this bill, because I've seen this before, so I know what to look for. But try to find how much I pay for electricity. [00:03:59] Speaker A: I mean, literally all I'm just looking at the. As just someone who is looking at this. All I see is the 182 30 and big, bold current balance due. [00:04:07] Speaker B: You owe us money. That's what that means. [00:04:10] Speaker A: And you actually owe us money. You actually owe them pretty soon. [00:04:13] Speaker B: Yes. I, unfortunately, was traveling. We have some photo bombers. I was, unfortunately traveling at the beginning of the month, so I was anticipating getting this bill, but I didn't actually see it until I got back. [00:04:27] Speaker A: And that's the only thing, honestly, that's all I would look at and where to pay, and I would probably not even question anything else on here. [00:04:34] Speaker B: Yeah, but they do break it down. They do break it down on there. How much you pay? So for my building, I have both gas, natural gas and electricity. Okay. I see some of that is for heating and cooling, and some of it is for heating the water. And I have a gas stove, unfortunately. How much do I pay, according to that bill for electricity? [00:04:54] Speaker A: You pay for your electricity. It says 40. 619. Oh, no. Your total electricity is 128. 80. And your total gas is 64. 64. [00:05:05] Speaker B: So right now, most of my bill is my electricity. And that's because the electricity is used for the heating and cooling. And it's been cool cold for a little bit. So the heat has turned on. So that's heating up the air in our apartment. But there's two lists. The thing that you looked at, the 42. That's something, right? There's two charges for electricity. One is supply and the other one is delivery, right? [00:05:30] Speaker A: Yes. You have a supply charge and you. [00:05:32] Speaker B: Have a delivery charge, which I actually spent some time and looked at this because I didn't know. I was like, what is the difference there? Because I was confused by that. And essentially, supply is the actual energy. The energy itself. The actual cost of the kilowatt hours or the electricity that you're using normally exists on the market. It's really complicated, and we'll get into that a little bit more later. And then the delivery is actually bringing that electricity or gas or energy, whatever it is, to your home. And that's where coned really plays the part, in that they're the ones who actually are the delivery. They're the delivery man. They're the UPS guys of electricity. [00:06:17] Speaker A: No one can see this, but the motion that he just made for delivery was like his arm swinging as if he is walking. [00:06:22] Speaker B: Yes, I'm going to bring you this carton full of electricity. [00:06:26] Speaker A: It is the universal symbol for delivery. [00:06:28] Speaker B: Yes. And apparently there's some negotiation around what those rates are, but essentially they make the money, or they use the money, the revenue from the delivery, to actually do maintenance for all of the transmission lines and all that stuff, which is really interesting. I didn't know that. I thought they made money on all of it. [00:06:47] Speaker A: Looking at this bill, though, to be honest, when you go to that second page, it has, like, the understanding your bill and stuff, it kind of does break it down in a way that is relatively digestible, I will say initially. But there's so much more complicated things that go on before you even get this build. I think that's, like, the part, because. [00:07:07] Speaker B: We know that, yeah, it looks mostly straightforward. And then it raises a million and a half more questions as to where does all this come from and why is it the way that it is? Right, right. Yes. And I think that leads us to talking about our guest speakers. Right. And who are we lucky to have as our interviews today? Yeah. [00:07:25] Speaker A: So today we're going to be talking to Stephen Roundtree, who's a former Wex staff member, and he's now with vote Solar, which is an organization that advocates for 100% clean energy. [00:07:34] Speaker B: And maybe before we get to our interview with Stephen and also Brianna, who is our staff member, who's going to help us debrief that interview, maybe we should go over a couple of definitions and concepts. [00:07:44] Speaker A: Yeah, let's do that. [00:07:45] Speaker B: Cool. Where do you want to start? [00:07:47] Speaker A: Well, we keep saying the word energy. What does that mean? [00:07:50] Speaker B: Yes, to me, energy is essentially the electricity and other fuels that are used to heat, cool, and run appliances and devices in our homes. Right. [00:07:59] Speaker A: Yeah, I think that's just straightforward. [00:08:02] Speaker B: The real question is, how does that electricity and other fuel get to our homes? [00:08:06] Speaker A: Yeah, that's the more complicated and complex part. But there are three major stages before energy even gets to your home. So you have to generate the energy, then it has to be transmitted. So it's a transmission aspect to it. And then there's the distribution, which is getting it actually to the home. So let's just take an example here of an energy source, like wind or solar. But we know that there are other energy sources that are not renewable, like oil, gas. So you generate that somewhere in a power plant of some sort. And then there's a transformer steps up the voltage of the transmission, so it makes it even more powerful. It goes through those big transmission lines that you normally see. Like, if you go through, like, I don't know if anyone's ever traveled upstate or whatnot. And those vast lands where there are just these huge, massive transition lines. [00:08:56] Speaker B: Big, scary towers. [00:08:57] Speaker A: Yeah, they are kind of scary. [00:08:59] Speaker B: They were put there by aliens. They look like what you think an alien spaceship would look like if it was deconstructed or if it was being built. [00:09:05] Speaker A: Yeah, they have a very. [00:09:07] Speaker B: Oh, they're here already. They're finishing their ship. Cool. [00:09:10] Speaker A: Aliens built the grid. Hot take. [00:09:13] Speaker B: Hot take. [00:09:14] Speaker A: The transmission lines carry the electricity very long distances. [00:09:17] Speaker B: Right. [00:09:18] Speaker A: So you normally don't have these big plants right outside your back door, especially in New York City. So upstate, larger spaces upstate carry these really long distances. And then they go into, like, a neighborhood transformer, which takes that voltage down a little bit so that know it's not high voltage because you can't go straight into your home when you do that. So you have to basically turn it down a couple of notches. [00:09:42] Speaker B: Yes. [00:09:43] Speaker A: And those. You can see a lot of those substations and stuff. Maybe, like, within your neighborhood, you'll see those. They're like those really weird fenced off areas. [00:09:50] Speaker B: And there's actually one not that far from our office, too. It's right down the street. It's a part of our toxics and treasures store. It's one of the coned substations. [00:09:56] Speaker C: Yep. [00:09:57] Speaker A: And then once that goes there, then the distribution lines carry the electricity to houses. And I think in New York City, most of our power lines are underground. [00:10:04] Speaker B: Right. They kind of have to be, otherwise those pigeons would mess those lines up. [00:10:08] Speaker A: Could you imagine New York City if we had, like, above ground lines throughout the city and just rows and rows of millions of pigeons? [00:10:15] Speaker B: Honestly, that would be kind of scary pigeon takeover. But to be fair, I think there are some lines that are above ground. Like in Brooklyn, for example. I see some power lines in some places. [00:10:23] Speaker A: And then again, the energy then from there is stepped down once a little bit more to make it. So you can plug in and turn on your lights and charge your phones and all of your devices. [00:10:32] Speaker B: Yeah. So you don't plug your microwave into the outlet and just explodes in a rage of fire. Yes. [00:10:38] Speaker A: Because that's what would happen if you didn't. [00:10:40] Speaker B: Yes. It's going to burn that toast immediately. And you. None of what you want. Yes. Well, so I think that's probably a good start, right? That we got some good definitions there. So maybe we go ahead and jump right into our interviews again. We got Stephen Roundtree, and then after that, we'll be back with Brianna Carbahal, who is our state legislative manager and can help us debrief that interview and talk about how it relates to the work that we do here at we act. Sound good? [00:11:02] Speaker A: Let's do it. [00:11:03] Speaker B: Let's roll. [00:11:14] Speaker C: Hey, guys. I'm delighted to be back at the We act office and to be joining you guys on the podcast. My name is Stephen Roundtree. You see him pronouns. I'm the deputy program director for the Northeast and mid Atlantic with vote solar. Vote Solar is a 501 advocacy organization nonprofit that is working towards building a robust and socially just solar powered economy across the US. Also, note that I'm a Proud we act alum. Just stomp down this ramp every day. So, yeah, again, really delighted to be back. I was curious about EJ issues and energy issues from a young age. We experienced energy instability when I grew up. So we'd have experienced one or two electric shut offs growing up. And also always, we were running out of home heating fuel. So basically, they had this fuel that would be dumped into your house at Liberty, Massachusetts, and it would keep the house warm, and we'd be occasionally running out of it. The story I always tell is, we were trying to figure out how to call up the oil company and buy some, but they couldn't come till Monday. We were going to run out, and the guy was like, hey, listen, like, hot tip, just fill the tank with diesel fuel. Because it's the same thing. It's literally the same substance. It's just in two different regulated markets so that you don't do this. And we're like, all right, sure. So I went down, spent, like, hours in the freezing cold, filling, like, pouring diesel fuel into the boiler, and then was like, wait a minute. This house is a pickup truck. Like, it's running on diesel. This is so messed up. And this stuff is causing pollution, and it's something that it's being withheld from us because we can't pay for it. And it was sort of like a that ain't right moment. And then I think it really launched me into thinking about questions of race and economics in space. I also live in a rural area. Not many people look like me. And it was sort of like. That was a question that came up in my mind that's always sort of animated, sort of my academic pursuits, and then eventually finding my way to react and having already an interest in energy policy, and then doing a lot of energy policy here, and then moving on to vote solar, which has been a challenge and a blast for the last three years. So, yeah, that's the short story. Certainly twists and turns in there. [00:13:25] Speaker B: Yeah, I mean, I love that because I feel like everyone comes from a different place as far as where in their life they had this moment of realization about this bigger picture in terms of either energy specifically or environmental justice. So thanks for sharing that. [00:13:39] Speaker A: Yeah, you've already kind of started, and we'll just kind of dive into this question. You've used the term energy democracy, and this is what this episode is all about. But can you explain to everyone, what is the concept of energy democracy? [00:13:52] Speaker C: Sure. So I can break the term into its component parts and then talk about some of the implications. So when we're talking about democracy in this case, it really means people having power over decisions that impact their lives, having that decision making power, see the table? Influence over things that impact them. And in the energy context, we're talking about people having decision making power on issues of how and when we produce, consume and pay for the energy we need for our lives, as well as decisions about who those choices benefit or burden. Sort of as a corollary, on top of that, the connotation is that energy democracy goes hand in hand with the clean energy transition, because increasingly the fossil economy is thriving counter to the will of the people, for obvious reasons. People overwhelmingly don't want to get sick from pollution, don't want our climate to be ruined, et cetera, et cetera. So the connotation there is that energy democracy will bring us toward clean energy. And that's one of the goals. Yeah. So to me, those are my sort of working core concept of energy democracy. But really, there's no one way to strive towards or to achieve energy democracy. Energy governance itself is really complicated and diverse. And so needs and desires of people in different places with different priorities and resources are going to vary wildly. And the priorities of what you go after, how that looks to you, will change. So, for example, here in northern Manhattan, the solar uptown now project, right, you guys may be familiar with from years back that's sort of still manifesting today, was really an effort to organize northern Manhattan co op buildings to step into their power, to take control of their energy future, get solar at a rate that is going to be affordable to their buildings, to sort of take control over the energy choices that they're making in their buildings and save money and help stop climate change. Also, groups like Weact are working on energy democracy projects with the state. They're working with NYSERDA to co design programs that are going to support programs like Solaruptown now and others. So there's multiple levels of abstraction and just site specific and population specific ways that people are fighting for and achieving energy democracy. But there's definitely no one way to think about it. [00:16:10] Speaker B: Yeah, that's helpful. And I think you've already started to touch on this a little bit in your answer, but can you give us a little bit more of an idea of what energy democracy means and looks like for people living in northern Manhattan and other environmental justice communities? Can you, I guess, paint us a vision for the aim for what we're striving for? Let's flash forward 1520 years. What would northern Manhattan look like if we were making strides towards energy democracy? [00:16:40] Speaker C: Sure. Yeah, that's not a simple question. I think where I'd start is sort of where we're at right now in northern Manhattan. So uptown. And I say we as an alum, but really you. So folks in northern Manhattan who are renters electricity, their energy bill is like the second highest bill that they'll pay after their rent. So it's like a really significant bill that impacts what their life situation is, what their ability to afford other things is. And that bill is the total dollar amount is comprised of line by line of different bodies that decide what the cost of that bill is. So you have one line that's like, this is the price of electricity based on the bulk purchasing market. The other one is. The next one is what's the price you pay to have the electricity delivered along the wires through coned? And then you also have, importantly, a little line item that's for the Energy Research and Development authority that pools that money. Then the state can then decide how to use it on energy projects or whatever. So you have a bill that you have to pay that impacts your life, impacts your ability to afford other things and be okay and keep the lights on. But there is so much decision making that's happening with that bill that most people don't know anything about and frankly, are told not to and are really depoliticized from having an impact on. But sort of on the other side of that, there's dollars that can go towards building efficiency, towards supporting new solar programs and people who live, people who are renters can be a part of a community solar array somewhere, and they can elect into that. They can shape what that program looks like so it suits them. They can change and advocate for new energy efficiency spending, right. Or ways that they can get their building to be more safe and comfortable. There's also decisions that we can make around what the utility does when they're building stuff, because they get paid, they get profit when they build stuff. It's a really sort of antique model, but people in northern Manhattan can say, hey, we don't need you guys to be building more substations. You should cool it with that, but rather invest in communities so that we don't use as much electricity. So you don't need to build a big jungle gym of a transfer station or a substation to get electricity here. Rather, why don't you invest in our health, in our homes instead? So there's all these ways that sort of collaboration or decision making is possible. But again, people have been really depoliticized and are not incentivized to be part of those conversations. But that's not, I mean, I think the moment we're in, and I want to talk about this a little later, that moment is changing and I think that's why for me it's such a hopeful and a nerve racking but really exciting moment. I think the impacts to northern Manhattan from climate are heat and storms. Extreme heat is going to impact the build environment more than non build environments, as we know. And obviously we're on the coast in the mid Atlantic that feels more and more like the tropics every year, and we're going to be subject to extreme weather. And I think it's harder and harder to ignore what those energy choices or our lack of advocacy and those energy choices sort of means for us. [00:20:06] Speaker A: Did you want to touch on a little bit? Because I know you kind of danced around a little bit. Can you kind of make that thread between energy democracy movement and the environmental justice movement? [00:20:18] Speaker C: Sure. Yeah. The energy democracy movement or movements towards energy democracy are really closely related to the environmental justice, racial justice movements. And at times they're self same and indistinguishable depending on the context. Really, I think the binding concept is that when people are able to speak for themselves and speak for their, from their experience, they make choices that are right for them and right for their communities. And I think that's the idea. Like using the lever of energy democracy, when people can say, hey, this is how this program affects me, this is what I need. And then it happens, then it's made to be the way the rules work. You're going to be, especially for folks who are at a deficit, who are being underserved or mistreated or exploited in the energy system. That's an opportunity for those folks to change the way the system works for them. And it's really obviously deficits in energy democracy or deficits in having your voice heard, having power in these conversations goes along the lines of race, class, gender, sexuality, all those. And so, yeah, I really consider them to be, to be really part of the same struggle, really closely linked. [00:21:32] Speaker A: Yeah, it's definitely one of those things where all those things we talk about environmental justice all the time and energy democracy doesn't never seem to be separate concept. And we're always kind of talking about at the same time people not getting what they deserve or not being at a table or some type of systemic or historic racist policy or practice or program. I feel like they're so closely related that sometimes they just feel like one of the same in the work that we're doing. But could you give us an idea of what's the current state of the energy democracy movement? [00:22:08] Speaker C: Sure. Like I said, there's no one movement. But I think if we want to talk about New York and sort of what's popping here, I think it's in a really interesting place. And I think folks who are seeing the opportunity to remake the great and remake your energy system are really making great gains and strides in changing the conversation. So, like I was saying earlier, folks who are impacted by our energy system are feeling the stress over it. Everyone has to pay a bill to feeling the stress. Folks who are impacted by climate are really feeling it in this moment. It's also sort of on a different level of abstraction, like the grid needs to change to do what New York state's sort of policy goals are. For those who don't know, in 2019, New York state passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection act, which was a decarbonization and social justice law, basically, that is requiring the state to move towards decarbonization across the economy. And also, importantly, that it would spend a proportion of all public investment on disadvantaged communities. Right. So that's acknowledging two things. Like we need to change the energy grid, change what the system looks like, how it works, who's able to interact with it, who's able to contribute and benefit from it, just necessarily because of the differences between building a power, building a coal power plant or a gas power plant and having solar panels or offshore wind, they just act differently. And so they require the system to be different. And that's sort of paired with this sort of exacerbating energy affordability, weather and climate crisis that's coming, and that is here. So the sort of confluence of these two sort of truths, having CLCP as a backup and then obviously living in the world we're living in, I think, is really opening up and animating the advocacy space as well as industrial players to changing this thing around and doing a lot. And we're lucky in New York because we have really talented and motivated advocates like weact and others around the state who are being really impactful in doing that. And we can talk about some of the specific efforts that are underway that I'm really excited about. If we want. Do you want to do that now? Should we do it? Sure. [00:24:18] Speaker B: Yeah. Let's hear it. [00:24:19] Speaker C: Yeah, I think this is really right on point. And one that I'm excited about is the Build Public Renewables act, which you guys may have heard of. [00:24:28] Speaker B: Yeah. [00:24:29] Speaker C: So the bill, public Renewables act. Really the genesis here. What I think one of the animating factors in folks advocating for the bill, Public Renewables act, which the law would, in short, empower the state power authority. NIPA, which owns Niagara Falls, owns some of the large transmission wires across the state already, but it would empower that agency A to be able to build clean energy resources. Right. Also the law would reform their board and also instate some really strong worker training and compensation standards that would expand what's already going on. So the bill is really exciting because what it would do is expand state power, right? And when you think about expanding state power, the state is responsible the people. And that's something that's a goal in and of itself right now. The tension with CLCPA. The bill was passed, right? CLCPA was passed the law, and the state has mandates to decarbonize the state's mandate. They're responsible for it at the end of the day. But the way in which the state has chosen largely to make those requirements come to life or make it real is basically just say, hey, we're going to take state money, that $1.78 on everyone's electric bill, turn that into packages that will bring private industry to the table to do the work. And we'll hope that in doing so, that activity will then benefit disadvantaged communities who have been left out of this economy from the beginning anyway. And so I think that sort of cognitive dissonance, public mandate, but it's expected to be done through the private sector, that's anarchic. It's not beholden to the government, really. They'll do it if they want to do it. They aren't put in a place to do it. They won't do it. Obviously, people want to work in the state, but it's like they don't have to. And so there's a cognitive dissonance there where people are saying, hey, wait a minute, this is not a government for the people. This activity is not working in support of people. But rather, if we could have the state authority empowered do some of this work, we could have some assurances that the state mandate is going to be connected with a state ability to do it. And so that's really, I think what's driving this thing in large part is really the striving for energy democracy, and striving for control over the mandate from the same people who won CLCPA, who are community groups, workers, local people across New York. [00:26:51] Speaker B: And just for folks who aren't familiar with CLCPA, can you say a little bit more about what it is. We haven't actually covered it yet in any of our podcast episodes, so it might be helpful for some background. [00:26:59] Speaker C: Yeah, sure. Like I said, the two key components of the components that we work on the most are this decarbonization schedule, which requires that the state's sort of power generation, among other things, the state's power generation is going to be 70% renewable by 2030 and 100% fossil free, 100% clean energy, which includes nuclear by 2040. Right. Those are sort of like the key build sort of milestones. And then they're also within that, there's six gigawatts of distributed or local solar in the mix, too. Now, the state's gone to ten because they have the wherewithal to go to ten. They've actually spent a billion and a half dollars of the people's money to go to ten to create a billion and a half dollar incentive package to do that. And then in doing so, the other big sort of important part of the law is this social equity requirement. It says at least 35%, with a goal of 40% of the benefits of public investment, of sort of energy, transportation, all sort of like the transition to clean energy spending is going to benefit disadvantaged communities. Now, it's sort of intentionally, unintentionally squidgy. What it means that those funds are going to benefit disadvantaged communities. And I've been on the record of saying that just having 35 or 40% of the funds being vaguely related to disadvantaged communities is not enough, and that there are other really sort of rigorous ways to track benefits and understand them as a proportion of the whole spend. But that, to me, it's the backstop. It's the scoreboard you can point to when you're giving your rationale for pushing for more for people and help New Yorkers live a thriving life. [00:28:44] Speaker B: Yeah, that makes sense. And something I want to maybe unpack a little bit more, just because I think it might provide a little bit more context and maybe some more grounding and reality for folks who aren't as deeply engaged in this area. The energy space is just the context of. You mentioned some numbers around gigawatts of energy from solar and other things. Could you put that into context? Just like think of a building, for example. If a building were to put some solar panels on the roof, what ballpark amount of energy would people be thinking about, and how much would that contribute just for folks to have some kind of sense of what a gigawatt or what a megawatt of energy looks like? In the city context, sure. [00:29:23] Speaker C: Yeah. So I like to think of it as like a small New York apartment uses maybe like 3 year. And so a gigawatt is like a thousand megawatts. I don't know, doing math on the air is not good. But yeah, basically. And just for some further context, for fun, the state's thinking about, the state just passed 1 distributed solar, so local solar, that interconnects to local grids. And it's like anywhere from rooftop solar to a small sort of solar field. Vote solar. Part of what we do is we do modeling. We do modeling and planning activities. So what we've modeled out for New York state is actually that it needs more than 80 gigawatts of just solar to meet to be on the sort of the best path for decarbonization. And that's not even counting things like nuclear, which arguably aren't a good idea. So really it's like we're doing good things. We've done so much more than we've done, but it's very different from being where we need to be. We really still are at the starting block. And that's, to me, another reason why BPRA has felt so important to a lot of New Yorkers. You can again look at the scoreboard. We have somewhere between four and 6% of New York state's electricity is produced by wind and solar. And again, the projections say it needs to be about half coming from just solar. So we're far off and we really need kick in the pants. And I think a lot of people are feeling like the state's got a part to play in this as a primary actor. [00:30:58] Speaker B: Does that make sense? Yeah. Thank you for that context. Yeah. [00:31:01] Speaker A: And one thing else that would like you to pick apart a little bit, because this is also fascinating, because I know a lot of people, they just get their bill, they look at it, and you talked about some of these different line items and money that's going towards, they don't really know what that is. What part of this system that we have right now is broken. That's not getting us to the point of. Because you said there's money, there's public money that's supposed to be going into private hands for them to do something along to make this work. But it doesn't seem like that's happening. [00:31:31] Speaker C: Yeah, I mean, there's so much that's really challenging with the energy system. I think for me, the one thing is staring down these hostile monoliths of utilities, like investor owned utilities. They're just companies they basically serve a public good. Back in the day, the one electric company was the only person running, only ones running lines. People were just getting electricity. And I'll know that New York has the oldest grid in the country, so it's this old, sort of cranky, ad hoc planned thing. And the utilities have sort of made a relationship with the public for themselves. Where they're a private company, they're monopolies. Locally, they are regulated by the public service commission, but those relationships are very close. And so they're regulated by someone, but they have a lot of impact on how they're regulated. And they're really looking first and foremost to protect their profits and protect their profitability. So they're doing this work they've done the way they've done it. The whole way this power plants generate electricity from power plants, it goes down. People are billed for their energy. But now we're in a situation where, okay, we can't be burning fossil fuels because we're going torch the planet. And also those fuels are becoming more price volatile with international conflict and climate disruption, et cetera, et cetera. And so things need to happen to change how it runs. We need to be building the grid in a different way, building solar and wind that interconnects where closer where people live, to make this whole grid more dynamic and more usable. But one of the key problems there is then interconnection to the grid. What's the way in which, and what's the process by which people can plug stuff, good stuff, into the grid and actors can plug good stuff in the grid. And part of what's where states are sort of really challenged right now is figuring out just how to make a process that is a fast, because we just literally, our hair is on fire. We need to be doing this stuff really fast as the state, and really just even in the current state of affairs, as private industrial actors who are doing this work, they need to do it really fast. But also we need to understand how to socialize the cost of that, because what happens is there'd be the grid. [00:33:40] Speaker A: And you can say, hey, I got. [00:33:41] Speaker C: A nice field here. I want to build a solar farm. We could definitely build a solar farm here because there's a field and they're like, hey, well, you're not really close to a substation. If you want to build a solar farm here, you need to pay a bazillion dollars to run a new cable. And you pay for that cable if you're the developer, or else the thing doesn't get built. But then that cable can make your project not work. It makes it cost too much to want to do it. But then if you do shell out and do it and somehow make it work, then everyone else who wants to build a solar farm afterwards just gets a free, new, free line and so they don't have to pay for it. And so New York state has done a lot of work on figuring this out and building sort of ad hoc sort of solutions to this. But there's still a lot to talk about as far as, like who's a stakeholder, who benefits, who's burdened by this? How much, if any, should the public pay for this, which at vote solar? We'd argue that you should, because solar is good for everyone, even if you're not the one who's doing it. But that's a conversation that is not really a democratically sourced and rigorous conversation, as rigorous as it could be right now. So I think the interconnection conversation is one that is rich and is a big issue for one. And then certainly the issue just to round back to the electric bill, of thinking about how utilities spend their money, that's part of their conversation is they're like, hey, well, are we responsible for, instead of waiting for someone to beg us to build a new line, do we have a responsibility to practically plan and say, we don't care because of the utility, but we know that the grid needs to change and people are going to be asking us to interconnect. And so what's their responsibility? And how is that shared among people who pay electric bills? Because a lot of how they get paid is they get paid through rates. So it's a big stew of complicated things. And that's really what makes it so frustrating and challenging to get involved because there's like a whole backlog of things you need to sort of understand, or at least the thought is that you need to understand before you engage. I like to unpack that a little bit more. The need or lack of the need for technical expertise in making these decisions. I think that's something that we've talked about. I've talked about it. We act, and obviously it's something that is a really important issue. [00:35:58] Speaker B: Could you say you're welcome to talk about it now a little bit more context? [00:36:01] Speaker C: Let's do it. Just to address that again, the grid is super complicated. It has so much impact in our lives. And there's this presumption that people who are engineers, like lawyers, regulators, business people, are the only people who sort of have what it takes to shape this thing and talk about it. And certainly you need people who know how the machine works to talk about it. But I think it's really far from the truth to say that they're the only folks that's the stakeholder group. I think people who know, people who don't have a high income, don't have high wealth, living in northern Manhattan, who have to pay an electric bill and have a lot to juggle and live in this world, live in this environment. You have to be an expert in your own life, and you have to be an expert in your experience with the energy system in order to survive. And so when we're designing the energy system of the future, those folks have a huge stake in what good policy looks like because you can't be like, well, from here it seems like it should look like this. And no, someone has to deal with this and really is paying attention to it. They're an expert. Listen to them, and then not just listen to me, like, oh, thanks for coming in. Say, okay, now we're going to do this. And then you can get really better outcomes. I think people think listening to community voices is about sort of like, oh, we just did to do it because it's like the nice thing to do. It's like, no, if you want to get it right, listen to what people are telling you about their lives. So, yeah, the experiential piece and thinking about expertise is more than just having a degree in this situation. [00:37:33] Speaker B: Yeah, that seems to be a pitfall that so many people fall into in the planning space and policy world of forgetting to meaningfully engage community members. And then they're wondering why the thing that they built or that they planned failed. Because they didn't get any input from community members, because they know what it should look like to actually benefit them and be meaningful. And actually, I wrote down something earlier that you kind of made me think of again that I wanted to circle back to you. You mentioned when we were talking about energy democracy, that it's more than one movement and maybe this is the component of it. There's multiple dimensions of it. I just wanted to circle back to that and give you a chance to maybe say a little bit more about and maybe unpack what you meant by it's more than just one movement when we're talking about energy democracy. [00:38:18] Speaker C: Sure. [00:38:19] Speaker B: Yeah. [00:38:19] Speaker C: I mean, just thinking on different levels. Right. Are you trying to pass a bill? I would say passing CLCPA was a huge victory for the movement of energy democracy because it's saying, we're going to change just what the rules are around whose needs get met. It's a popular movement to affect. Like, that's one separate thing. I think it's really different to say, hey, we're going to be working and bringing we act members to the table to negotiate against or negotiate with a developer on prices for electricity or for prices for solar panels to sort of hold power on how that goes. And it's just like people with different priorities of needs, right. People who live in a co op are like, we need to keep this thing in shape. The building costs money and we need to save money. And having rooftop solar is like a direct way to sort of, instead of just saying, hey, we're bound to pay our electric bill, whatever it comes up, you're saying, no, we have some agency here, so we can get organized, we can do our own thing. Obviously this is happening at the international level. Like, members of the global south are organized sort of collectively against the fossil crushing countries like the US. And those conversations are happening everywhere. Yeah. So it's really tied into multiple movements, I would say, and. And just happening like at all sort of like levels of choice. I don't know if that's like, that's unpacking it enough, but hopefully it's more. [00:39:48] Speaker A: Is there one ultimate goal? [00:39:53] Speaker C: Yeah. No drills, no bills, baby. I love that that's kind of saying something, but it's not too much to ask. Someone wiser than me once said, the raw materials of utopia are all around us. It's our world. It's the same world. We can have whatever world we want. And we talk about like, oh, let's try to find a way to make electricity affordable. Yes, that's better than it not being affordable. But maybe what if it wasn't something we had to worry about the same way? Like, public transportation could be free. And that's truly not too much to ask if you're making electricity with wind and solar, there's no fuel, so why are we paying for it? Just because somebody else sort of captured that value? It's questions we can ask ourselves. And I always like to think expansively, think down the future, down the road of the future to the world you want, and not really feel bound by the world. [00:40:47] Speaker A: We have no drill, no bills. [00:40:51] Speaker C: Yeah, no drills, no bills. [00:40:51] Speaker B: That's the tagline for this episode. Circling back to people being engaged with this work. And I know you said maybe it's difficult in some ways, given that the landscape and maybe folks aren't being engaged as much as they should be. But can you maybe speak to how folks who are listening to this can get involved and help move this work forward in a meaningful. [00:41:15] Speaker C: You know, I always encourage people to get involved with the political process in the place they live. I think in, you know, everything I've learned from being an advocate in New York has been that experiential storytelling matters, and it matters to decision makers. If you talk to your elected official and just say, like, hey, I live in your district, this is my experience. This needs to change. [00:41:39] Speaker B: That's part of it. [00:41:40] Speaker C: I think getting educated is really important. Organizations like Weak, like the New York State Energy Democracy alliance, work with community members across the state to turn people, bulk people up into, know those trainings are available to get to understand the stuff better. And then it's like, albany is a three hour schlep, but it's there for us. I think that's really important. And also just getting involved. This is part of what I was saying, just getting involved with an organization who can help get you organized. I think, again, we'll talk about weact just being a place where folks can. Instead of saying individually, I'm stressed by an electric bill gathering together and saying, oh, I'm stressed with it. You're stressed with it. You're stressed with it. It's a problem. That's not my problem. It's our problem. That's a political problem that we can fix. And I think just finding ways to talk to other people, get involved with organizations who are dealing with the issues can help you reach a sense that it's a mutual problem, that we can all solve it. Yeah. And I think, just don't let yourself be depoliticized. Don't let yourself think that it's preordained and that you can't make a difference. Just being involved with someone who's doing the work on the ground and pitching in and showing up, I think, are my advice. [00:43:02] Speaker B: That's great. [00:43:03] Speaker A: And I like that kind of, like, psychosocial element of like, you're not the only one. I feel like there's a lot of shame around not being able to pay a bill or something like that, or choosing between your electricity bill and medication or food. People feel very shame, but there are so many people actually going through that exact same thing and kind of understanding. If everyone started telling their stories and everyone had that individual story told, we'd have a line outside just wrapped around the city alone. [00:43:34] Speaker C: Yeah, exactly. I mean, it is an interesting opportunity because if you can get people, if you can sort of make the point or start to talk to your neighbors about like, hey, don't you hate coned? Yeah, everyone does. I'll say that coned is not singularly evil, but it puts a tax on people's lives. It's a day to day challenge for a ton, a ton, a ton of people. And so getting engaged can be exciting. [00:44:05] Speaker A: Can I ask one more thing? We could probably cut this if you want to. Is there anything that they're doing right, coned? [00:44:11] Speaker B: Yeah, don't worry. We've already established they are just not going to sponsor this episode or any episode. [00:44:17] Speaker A: They're not funding any of this. [00:44:18] Speaker C: Yeah. Love you mean it, coned. But one thing I can say that they've recently done is they sort of supported or didn't oppose the all electric Buildings act for New York state, which is kind of funny because they're an all electric utility. So the other electric and gas utilities had to kind of like, sweat it out when the all electric utility was like, this is of course we want. Yeah, so I kind of enjoyed that. [00:44:43] Speaker A: But how do they feel about public renewables? [00:44:48] Speaker C: I'll note that it's not because of the way that New York is set up. The utility, the local utilities don't have as much of a stake in the, they buy it on a bulk. So if Nipa's selling it on a bulk market or participating in that market in some way, then that's not their business. Got it. But yeah, they're about their money and they're about not doing work they don't want to do. And it's a tough thing to hold and still being responsive to this moment. [00:45:19] Speaker A: I was just curious. [00:45:20] Speaker B: Yeah, that makes sense. Well, thank you for all of your insights into this space so far. I feel like I'm very not an expert at all. So I think maybe that's a good. [00:45:31] Speaker C: Thing because then I had some basic. [00:45:32] Speaker B: Questions that maybe some of our listeners would have as well. But before we wrap up, I want to give you a chance to share anything else that you want to promote that you think folks should know about while you're here. [00:45:44] Speaker C: Sure. Yeah. I mean, just while I'm here, the top thing that I would promote, if you are listening to the podcast, is to get involved with weact and support we act. You obviously know a little bit because you're here, but they're in northern Manhattan. You guys are doing really incredible work on so many fronts in DC and in New York, that if you have time, if you have money, look no further. Get involved. From my perspective, at Ode solar, we're a group that works with and is supportive of. We act a lot. We're interested in the storytelling aspect. We're not a community based organization. We're not a baseball building organization, but we can do a lot with storytelling and narrative. And if you're someone who is interested in solar, interested in energy, and has a story to tell, we'd love to be in conversation and elevate your voice on that. But, yeah, I mean, simple, just support. We act great. [00:46:41] Speaker B: Love that. [00:46:41] Speaker A: And luckily, we're going to have Rihanna join us after this and talk a. [00:46:44] Speaker C: Lot about some of the. [00:46:45] Speaker A: Who is our state legislative manager? Who's going to talk a lot about the policy work and the work that we're going to be doing around energy democracy. [00:46:52] Speaker C: Tremendous. Yeah, Brianna is the best. [00:46:54] Speaker B: And we'll make sure to share any links that you want to. Yeah, thank you so much. And we'll wrap it there. And, yeah, thanks for joining us. [00:47:03] Speaker C: Great. Thank you both. Thank you. [00:47:17] Speaker B: Well, thanks so much for joining us, Brianna. And I'm going to turn it over to you just to introduce yourself and give us some background about how you got into environmental justice and energy justice specifically. [00:47:29] Speaker D: Sure. Thanks for having me, you guys, not like we don't sit together all day every day here in the weact office. We get to do it again. Yay. I'm Brianna. I'm the state legislative manager here at Weact for environmental justice. Pronouns they, she, and I'm really excited to talk to y'all today about what drew me to this line of work and why energy justice is such a priority for everything we do here at WEAct. When I first started as an intern, my manager was the amazing Jasmine Graham. For many folks in the climate space, you probably know Jasmine. You know that they are a wonderful, bubly personality. And I learned so much during that internship. But one of my first assignments was actually to go call people and talk to people in our community in northern Manhattan and check in on them, see how they're doing. This was late 2021, early 2022. So, like, just right post the peak of the pandemic. And I was calling folks in our community that have been WEAC members for many years, and I was just asking them a bunch of questions about what's their financial situation like now? What are they spending majority of their funds on? And I was hearing that utility bills they were seeing from their utility provider, which is for most people living in northern Manhattan, Con Edison, their bills were in the thousands. One story in particular stuck with me. It was a woman who was pregnant, about six months pregnant, and had a two year old child in the home. And she was telling me that her bill was upwards of $5,000. She had utility debt that was backlogged that she couldn't afford to pay during the pandemic, since I believe her partner had lost his job very recently. And instead of heating or being able to heat, there were repairs going on in the building that were not done after her repeated request to the landlord. And as a result, she was using her gas stove to heat the apartment, which, as we all know, here at we act, we just put out an amazing study called out of gas in with justice that our wonderful climate justice campaign organizer Annie put together, looking at two years worth of research on getting gas stoves out of people's buildings. And a huge takeaway from that is that nitrogen dioxide is responsible for increasing 35% of indoor air pollution emissions, which is actually illegal for illegal EPA level for outdoor emissions, which is incredibly. It just speaks to how horrible it is for people to resort to using gas stoves for heating, especially when they can't afford their energy bills as is. So that really opened my eyes to the world of energy justice, energy poverty. What does it look like when people are energy burdened and energy bills being the second largest expense for folks after rent? I knew I had to focus on helping people make energy accessible and equitable and provide them a chance to a pathway to energy democracy. [00:51:12] Speaker C: Great. [00:51:13] Speaker B: Yeah. [00:51:13] Speaker A: And it's so sad to hear those stories, because there are way more people who are experiencing that than I think a lot of people quite understand, but also the fact that it's such a layered issue. Right. We went from one environmental justice issue to another one with the gas stove, and just kind of like what we call cumulative impact. It's very exemplary of some of the work we do and really trying to tackle all of that. [00:51:44] Speaker B: Something I want to touch on, because I think that what's helpful with all this is to put it into perspective of our lived experience. And you're talking about how this one particular story moved you so much. And I wanted to get more of a sense of whether this was a new thing to you at the time, or is this something that you had seen growing up with other people that you knew. I think as younger adults or like younger people, we pay less attention, I think, to our energy bill, because that's our parents problems, but we're still around it. We still see some residual effects of it in some way, shape, or form. So what was that like for you? Was this a new experience for you? Is this something that you had some kind of familiarity with growing up or with people that you knew growing up? [00:52:22] Speaker D: No, it was not a new experience for me, for folks who don't know me like the people in the room do. I grew up in south central Los Angeles and I did not come from a wealthy family. My family are very much working class and we struggled a lot financially. I remember my mother actually know oftentimes using instead of an electric heater that she was worried would drive up the energy bill like crazy, turning on the gas stove because she thought that was a great alternative to heating our know or we didn't live in an efficient building. A lot of homes in Los Angeles are not weatherized very well, given that LA has a history of being always sunny. But even in the climate crisis we're seeing, that is not the case any longer. In California, they've been experiencing tornadoes, they've been experiencing snowstorms and floods that people are freaking out about for good reason. I mean, this is historic weather we're seeing in California. And as a result, even then, my mom has called me recently saying she received an energy bill that was so out of left field since due from her usual bill that she receives that she was freaking out about how they would afford to pay it monthly. So this is a topic that does hit close to home, and it's one that I'm sure is resonating with many other families, not only in northern Manhattan, but all over the United States. [00:54:00] Speaker A: And you've done it in the capacity of working here. We act in a really great job of making that connection because I think when people hear energy justice or energy democracy, it's such a foreign term, unless you are a nerd in that space. But when you talk about your utility bills or you talk about electric bills or not being able to afford a bill, I think people instantly understand and can gravitate towards that. Can you talk a little bit about how you kind of make energy justice and energy democracy accessible to people? [00:54:31] Speaker D: Yeah, like you're saying, when you say energy democracy, even to me, when I was first getting into this line of work, I was like, what does that really mean? Does it mean that we vote for energy? And in a way, yes. It means that your voice matters. We think energy, and we believe and we know energy is a human right. And as a result, we're always working towards that goal. And we have a vision for what we really want to see, changing this system that is extractive and profiteering and polluting. In terms of our energy and making it towards one that runs on renewables, is equitable, has community participation at the forefront, is affordable, and is healthy for you and your family and your well being for far into the future. So how do we go from this system that really no one voted for and move to one that is with the community at the center and is a system that is accountable to the people, is a system where people have a say in what the vision is and overall is healthy for us and our planet. [00:55:51] Speaker C: That's great. [00:55:52] Speaker B: Thank you. And with that in think, you know, trying to translate some of these bigger concepts, I know that you had a chance to listen to our interview with Stephen and had some thoughts and maybe some things to connect the dots with some of those bigger picture concepts that he talked about with some of the work that we're doing here at Wex. So I want to open it up for you to maybe talk about some of those pieces that I know you have highlights on. And where do you want to start? [00:56:16] Speaker D: Yeah, I think Stephen did a really fantastic job. In summing up, what are those large big picture ideas that kind of drive all the work we're doing? I mean, he mentioned the CLCPA, our climate law being that kind of gold standard, or not even gold standard. It's what we need to achieve decarbonized New York State in order to align with meeting our climate goals globally. So it's really an important law, and it's one that we at New York State are always doing our best to make sure that we are meeting the mandates that are set there. So when we look at New York State, even what is our current state of being within New York? And we know we have one of the oldest housing stocks in New York as a result, that means that folks are living in conditions that are issues of chronic deferred maintenance. They have mold, lead, asbestos, pest housing. The housing crisis is extricably linked to the climate crisis and energy justice because we can't meet our state's decarbonization goals without remediating people's homes. And if we can't remediate people's homes, we can't make them electrification ready, energy efficient ready, which is what we need to meet our climate goals. So it all ties together and it's all a vision in how we get to the goals of the CLCPA. And so here at weact, we have a bunch of policies that we're advocating for to further the goals that lined in the climate law, the first one being the energy efficiency Equity and Jobs act. And thank you for sticking with me. As I said that, it's a mouthful. It's also pronounced EJA, if you want to be using the cool shorthand. And what it would do is exactly like I was saying, get rid of the unhealthy parts of people's living conditions, the environmental hazards like lead mold, asbestos, pests that people are living with before we go in and do energy efficiency upgrades so that we're not locking people into unhealthy housing. When you do efficiency upgrade work, you're sealing the building envelope of a home or building, and as a result, you're tightening the indoor air sealant. So if you're doing an efficiency upgrade without remediating a home first, it's as a result exacerbating the horrible indoor air quality, and you're making actually things worse. So we need to make sure that EGA is allowing the state to couple remediation work with energy efficiency upgrades and unlocking those funds to be equitably distributed across New York state and especially in disadvantaged communities. So it's a really important bill and one that we advocate for very heavily here at weact that we want to see passed this year, along with that broader goal of this just transition and making sure that energy justice is at the center. We need to make sure that, like you were saying a little earlier, that energy is affordable. We can't have people spending thousands of dollars on energy bills. That's not justice at the center. That is profiteering. And we need to make sure that energy burdens, which one in four households in New York City are energy burdened by 17%, and the state actually says that folks need to be at 6%. So we need to make sure that's a mandate and that's law. And that's where the new York Heat act comes in. [01:00:22] Speaker A: And that energy burden is the percent that you pay to utilities based on your income, right? [01:00:30] Speaker D: Yeah. So your energy burden is defined as one's household income. How much of that household income is being spent on energy expenditures? So we need to make sure that folks who are spending 17% or more of their income get to that 6% threshold so that energy is actually affordable and people can pay their bills without going into debt. I don't feel like that's a hard goal, and it's really achievable. If we pass the New York Key act, what that bill will do is, first and foremost, get gas out of our homes. It gets rid of two really outdated laws in New York state, one being the obligation to serve and the other being the 100 foot rule. And both of those rules are ones that utilities and the state hide behind, saying that they can't get rid of gas hookups. They always have to be putting gas hookups in buildings because those rules have them continuing to place natural gas in people's homes. But if we pass the New York Key act, it gets rid of those laws. And so we no longer have to, quote unquote, have to put gas hookups in buildings. And we can codify or put into law a mandate saying that folks are not going to be spending more than 6% of their energy, of their income on energy. [01:02:00] Speaker B: That's super helpful. And I feel like with that breakdown, those are some concrete actions that we want people to be engaged with. But for some people, that seems daunting. It seems like a lot of big policies, a lot of big things. What does that look like for an average we member or just a person listening to this podcast? What's their role? What can they do as far as helping to move these policies forward and helping to be advocates for these things that we clearly need to have to make sure that we're promoting environmental. [01:02:27] Speaker D: We always, I feel like the one place where I hear most excitement, and like you were saying earlier, Alani, is the energy bills portion. People are struggling. They know someone or they know of someone in their community that can't afford to pay their bills. Those stories are incredibly important. People need to hear from you first and foremost what your experience is and how upset you are that energy isn't treated like a human right currently. And so here at weact often have ways for community members to get involved in telling your legislators directly, either by a phone call, via a sign on letter, whether it be testifying at a hearing, whatever ways you're able to make your voice heard. We want to amplify that and we want to be able to have you tell your story. And that will make a giant impact on us moving these bills forward so that we make it so. New York state is a place that is forwarding energy justice. [01:03:40] Speaker A: Yeah, I think a lot of people don't realize how impactful their story is when it comes to moving legislators to do the right thing. So I would always also encourage people to kind of make sure they tell their stories. Even if you call up Brianna and just be like, I'm going to tell you my energy story, and then that way she can take it and have it and we can utilize that. It's a really great tool for moving policies forward. That I think a lot of people don't realize how important her voice is. [01:04:10] Speaker D: Yeah, it definitely is. [01:04:12] Speaker B: One term that you used and I want to circle back to just to make sure, for folks who aren't familiar with it, I think it's an important piece of this world of dealing with the energy justice issues is profiteering. You use that word a couple of times. Can you unpack that for folks on what that means and why that is a part of the problem? [01:04:26] Speaker D: Yeah, I'll give a very concrete example in profiteering, which is actually something that Stephen touched on in his earlier call here with you all was when our current energy system is one that is extractive, is profiteering. And what I mean by that is right now in New York state, and especially for folks in northern Manhattan and New York City, most, majority of people are paying their utility bills to what's called an IOU, an investor owned utility. And what that means is it's a profit driven model. So they have investors like a company, let's say con Edison, they have investors that will continue to profit from the company making money. And the way they make money is continuing to build infrastructure, that is, natural gas infrastructure. So they will continue to raise rates. They will continue to build natural gas infrastructure, not because it's serving people and serving the needs of our community, but because it's serving their investors and creating profit. So that is really what I mean in what I'm saying. Profiteering is we have an extractive model that's not putting the needs of people first. And we absolutely need to be putting people first. And we can do that with energy. Democracy. Is now a good time to mention BPRA? [01:05:55] Speaker B: Yes. People aren't motivated by now, after hearing that, to take action. This is it right here. [01:06:01] Speaker A: Yeah, I was just going to say, how do we move away from that model? [01:06:04] Speaker D: Yeah. So that model I was referring to for investor owned utilities is one that could be done for, I mean, if we pass the bill, Public Renewables act, which has so much momentum in New York state, there are so many advocates pushing for this bill. It is a transformational bill that is getting a lot of recognition and people power moving this legislation forward. And so it's really exciting. And what it would do is give people a public utility option. So instead of being an investor owned utility, the people will have a say in what this utility does for folks. And it's going to be transparent, democratically controlled, and provide affordable utility bills to folks in New York state. Really what the bill does as well is make sure that we're meeting our climate goals. So with the mention of the CLCPA earlier and Stephen explaining the great decarbonization goals it sets out for the state, the BPRA, consider it as our renewable energy safety net. If the state is not currently setting forth a plan to meet our climate law mandates and decarbonize us efficiently by 2030, then that's where NIPA and the BPRA kick in, in being able to build, until we meet that mandate, renewable energy projects across New York state. So it's incredibly important for environmental justice communities to be given affordable energy bills. It's also going to be accountable to community members and they're going to be transparent in how they're building their energy projects. So it's a really important bill and it's a way that we're giving power back to the people. [01:08:04] Speaker C: Literally love that. [01:08:06] Speaker B: And for folks who don't know, NiPA is the New York Power Authority, correct? [01:08:09] Speaker C: Yes. [01:08:10] Speaker B: Great. Well, anything else that you wanted to touch on that we didn't have a chance to talk about yet that you think is important for folks to know about energy? [01:08:19] Speaker D: I think so. I think I covered it. [01:08:21] Speaker C: Awesome. [01:08:21] Speaker B: Well, thank you so much, Brianna, for joining us, and we'll hope to have you back again soon. [01:08:26] Speaker D: Thanks, guys. This was fun. [01:08:27] Speaker A: Yeah, we're all going to go back to the same space. Thanks for listening. If you made it this far, that probably means you enjoyed what you heard. So make sure you look out for new episodes on the last Monday of every month. [01:08:43] Speaker B: You can also check out weact on Facebook at Weactford. That's weactforej. And on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube at weactford. That's W-E-A-C-T number four, E J. And check out our website, weact.org, for more information about environmental justice. [01:09:04] Speaker A: If you have any questions or comments about the show, you can always reach out to us directly by emailing [email protected]. [01:09:11] Speaker B: All right, that's it, folks. And remember, no drills, no bills. [01:09:35] Speaker C: Thank you.

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