This guest blog post is written by Elevate Energy’s Policy Analyst Quinn Biever.
The Sierra Club’s Ready For 100 (RF100) campaign aims to engage communities across the city to design and implement a clean energy transition that is easy to understand and access while centering racial and economic equity. “At times, conversations about clean energy policy can feel very layered and complex. That is why we built this series around the approachable topics that people care about: jobs, saving money, health, and fair access to technology” said Kyra Woods, RF100 Organizer and Coordinator.
4 Conversations, 30 neighborhoods, 26 wards
Across September and October, the RF100Chicago team hosted 4 virtual conversations about the priorities and values that should guide our city’s energy transition. Each week featured a panel of guest speakers and time for small groups so that participants can learn from one another.
The series leaned on the local leadership of organizers and technical experts from 10 organizations for a rounded understanding of some of the challenges ahead. You can read full recaps and videos in previous blog posts below but here are some key highlights from the conversations.
What We Heard
People for Community Recovery and Jobs to Move America led our conversation about the importance of creating long-term jobs. Together, participants agreed that the City should use its purchasing power to support companies with strong labor practices. Also, participants shared that the measure of success can’t simply be the promise of jobs or training programs. Job placement and retention are critically important for this growing industry.
Through the exploration of energy efficiency, municipalization, and building decarbonization, Fresh Energy, Democratize ComEd, and Elevate Energy shared information on how residents can save money by saving energy. During this #PowerUp conversation, participants raised the importance of seeing energy access as a right for all residents. In this light, our utility should end shutoffs, provide affordable access to renewable energy and storage, and proactively support communities experiencing greatest energy burden.
The series’ third conversation focused on public health and welcomed Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO), Vote Solar, and Warehouse Workers for Justice. What was abundantly clear in this conversation was the need for real systemic differences in how our city looks at development and planning. Both the panel discussion and small group conversations elevated the need for more inclusive and coordinated zoning practices, actively reducing point sources of pollution, and investing in community leadership to design more resilient and healthy neighborhoods.
Chicago for Electric Vehicles, Equiticity, and Respiratory Health Association reminded us that the conversation about electric cars is about more than flashy brands and clout. Racial health disparities, diversity of housing styles (i.e. apartment, single family homes, etc), and community-involved planning were raised as critical issues to address as the city explores equitable electrification strategies.
Just the Beginning
This series was just another step in the direction of developing a full plan for our energy future. So many goals were lifted up in conversation: labor rights and community economic benefits, burden-targeted efficiency and affordability programs, community-focused regulation, and a revitalization of safe and sustainable infrastructure. Great things take time, so this kind of organized and informed community-led effort must continue.
Join the conversation and be a part of the change by following the Ready for 100 Chicago campaign at readyfor100chi.org and on social media: @rf100chi