Climate Week NYC has arrived, and with it comes a flurry of promises and pledges for a greener future. While these big initiatives capture the media’s attention, it’s important to recognize the vital role community-level action plays in achieving sustainable energy goals. The US Department of Energy’s Clean Energy to Communities (C2C) program is a prime example of such efforts.
C2C aims to increase the accessibility and affordability of local solar energy for low- and middle-income households. The program also collaborates with communities across the country to develop innovative renewable energy projects. For instance, C2C partnered with Black farmers and churches in Florida for a solar project last summer. Additionally, the town of Cohoes, New York, collaborated with C2C on a floating solar project that takes advantage of the community’s water supply infrastructure.
One notable C2C project revolves around the Alaskan member-owned electric cooperative, Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA). GVEA’s service area covers a vast expanse, including critical military bases. However, managing an electric grid in such harsh environments, while aiming to reduce costs and reliance on fossil fuels, is a challenge. C2C aims to assist GVEA in transitioning away from coal power and implementing wind and hydropower projects to provide reliable and clean kilowatts.
These community-level renewable energy projects are made possible through the C2C program, which offers funding and technical assistance to help communities create tailor-made energy transition strategies. The program emphasizes peer learning and collaboration, with groups of communities working together to develop clean energy solutions for transportation, municipal buildings, and enhanced resiliency.
The C2C program has seen success in over 50 communities across 25 states and Puerto Rico. It has provided technical assistance for short-term solutions and supported projects with long-term visions, such as a net-zero transportation goal for the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and a 100% renewable energy plan for Moloka‘i in Hawaii.
While community-level action is promising, there are challenges. Some Republican officials in multiple states have been obstructing the application of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) business goals to renewable energy projects. This opposition comes despite increasing evidence of the financial benefits of an ESG strategy.
The C2C program exemplifies the importance of community-level action in achieving renewable energy goals. By providing funding, technical assistance, and opportunities for peer learning, it empowers communities to develop sustainable energy solutions that align with their priorities and values.