By: Cameron Baller
Young people are in danger. Our present and our future are threatened by everything from rampant gun violence to corrupt politicians and climate change. Those of us under 18 have no political rights to address the ways our lives are threatened. The rest of us are struggling under tens of thousands in student loan debt and an economy that requires five years’ experience for an entry-level job. In addition, we are continuously degraded by the narrative that we are lazy, apathetic, and entitled. Despite these obstacles, we in the environmental, climate, and racial justice movements have been loud about the threats we face and the solutions we need. We aren’t apathetic, you just aren’t listening.
The Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition (KSEC) has been fighting for our future since 2007. We have won six campaigns promoting campus sustainability, worked hard to champion a just transition to clean energy, launched a summer camp to train young organizers, marched, rallied, voted and much more. Still, we youth are dismissed. This dismissal is embodied by HB227, which caps solar credits and makes it much harder for homeowners with private solar installations to get a return on their investment. This blatant attack on the solar industry threatens the livelihoods of 1,200 solar workers and runs contra to the needs of young Kentuckians.
KSEC’s Just Transition Working Group focuses on the economic and environmental challenges unique to Appalachian Kentucky. Our overarching goal is making Appalachia a place where young people can stay. We conducted a survey of over 100 young Appalachians to find out which economic sectors most appeal to them as they look to the region’s future. 63% of respondents cited renewable energy as something they were particularly excited about. Political leaders in Frankfort ought to take notice.
Unfortunately, through HB227, special interests are working to weaken Kentucky’s burgeoning solar industry. Last week, Kentucky Coal Association President Tyler White wrote an Op-Ed supporting HB227 that was chock-full of misinformation. White cited Germany as an example of solar’s failings. While it is true that Germany both produces a significant amount of solar energy and has some of the highest electricity prices of any country, the correlation does not imply causation. Taxes and fees are responsible for driving up Germany’s electricity prices, not solar. They account for approximately 54% of electricity costs in Germany, according to a report by Ellen Thalman and Benjamin Wehrmann.
Next, White argued that net metering policies shift costs onto other consumers. However, a report from the Brookings Institute found that net metering “frequently benefits all ratepayers when all costs and benefits are accounted for.” The report even states, “far from a net cost, net metering is in most cases a net benefit—for the utility and for non-solar ratepayers…. [D]istributed solar offers net benefits to the entire electric grid through reduced capital investment costs, avoided energy costs, and reduced environmental compliance costs.”
Solar energy is exploding nationally and globally. It is essential that our legislators see through the misinformation behind HB227 so that Kentucky is not left in the dust. Furthermore, given the threats facing younger generations—a destabilized climate, debilitating debt, and food and water insecurity— older generations are morally obligated to amplify our voices and legislators are morally obligated to listen to us. To start, that moral obligation includes calling your legislators and asking them to reject HB227. You don’t even have you know who your legislator is, just call the legislative message line ask to leave a message for them. Fighting for our future demands taking meaningful action to support young Kentuckians.
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