Outside Monday night’s KET senate debate one voice was louder than the rest, the voice of young Kentuckians. Young voters are often described as apathetic but a group of a dozen students and young people from the KY Student Environmental Coalition (KSEC) stood in stark contrast to that sentiment. Holding signs that asked candidates to address climate change and be bold energy leaders, the students wanted to make sure that Mayor Gray and Senator Paul knew that they were disappointed in their lack of leadership on energy and environmental issues.
“I’m so tired of hearing that millennials are apathetic. We aren’t apathetic or unengaged. We are being ignored. Is it really surprising we don’t vote when we have candidates who are failing to address the issues that are most important to us?” said Taylor Renfro, who studies environmental and sustainability at the University of Kentucky. “Want to activate young voters? Start talking about real energy transition, protecting our communities from pollution and addressing economic inequalities. Renewable energy and energy efficiency legislation could put our communities back to work and help Kentucky become an energy leader again. And our senate candidates on either side of the aisle haven’t said one word about new energy solutions. We aren’t voting because we are completely uninspired by our options.”
KSEC supports a network of students and young people from across the state who are working to build a better future in Kentucky by advocating for the protection of natural resources, community health and resiliency and a new, sustainable “green” economy. One of their initiatives is building support amongst elected officials for renewable energy portfolio standard legislation, called the Energy Opportunity Act, which, according to a study done by Synapse Energy Solutions, would create a net 28,000 new jobs over the next 10 years.
“If our candidates actually cared about job creation, they would be leading a just economic transition, which includes creating a green economy in Kentucky where we are not only putting people to work in increasing the energy efficiency of our homes and businesses and installing renewable energy, like rooftop solar, but also talking about manufacturing wind turbines and solar panels here, too.” said Grace Engelman, a high school student from Owen County. “When we hear candidates and legislators say that they are going to bring back coal, we know that is a false promise and only reflects on their ties to the coal industry, not the real needs in our communities. Coal is not coming back and what we need now is a plan to protect our impacted communities from another large extractive industry swooping in while we are vulnerable.”
Currently 29 states have a renewable energy portfolio standard including Ohio and North Carolina. Many attribute the huge economic growth in the solar energy sector in North Carolina specifically to the passage of REP standards and they are now leading the nation in employing people in the solar industry. Kentucky has vast untapped potential for solar, wind, hydroelectric, and geothermal energy production. KY currently gets 3% of our electricity from renewable sources, and about 80% from coal with the rest coming from natural gas.
KSEC Energy Lobby Day
KY Students Meet Legislators to Advocate for Energy Opportunity Act
Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition members are lobbying legislators on the House Standing Committee on Tourism Development and Energy to vote for the Energy Opportunity Act. The youth feel their future is being blocked by state officials who are dragging their feet on legislation that could create 28,000 jobs and reduce the state’s carbon emissions. Kentucky youth met with Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, Rep. Brian Linder, Rep. Tom McKee, Sen. Julian Carroll, and Sen. Reginald Thomas for KSEC’s third Energy Lobby Day.
By passing the Energy Opportunity Act, Kentucky would adopt a renewable and energy efficiency portfolio standard, or REPS, that would increase utilities’ renewable energy production by 12.5 percent and increase energy efficiency by 10.25 percent within a period of 10 years.
“Similar legislation has already passed in over half of the states in the U.S. and we have seen many positive outcomes. This legislation creates jobs, boosts the economy, and lowers electricity bills,” KSEC Renewable Energy Organizer Will Cripps said.
The act was originally introduced to the House in 2010 and has been placed in the House Standing Committee on Tourism Development and Energy each session since. The committee has yet to vote on the act.
“Every year the committee ignores this legislation is another year our elected officials prevent Kentucky from gaining 28,000 jobs and another year we fall behind states who are embracing the new energy economy,” KSEC Organizer Cara Cooper said. “KSEC would like to see this bill go to vote so we can know which legislators truly support economic development in our state and which legislators are content to let our communities suffer as the coal industry declines”
Passing this legislation would be a demonstration that elected officials are listening to young voices and are working to bring about a healthier, brighter future for the youth of Kentucky.
Tracy Blevins is a member of the KSEC Just Transition Steering Committee and is from Van Lear, Kentucky. She thinks the legislation could be beneficial to coalfield communities by providing much needed work. “The Energy Opportunity Act could be instrumental in introducing a just economic transition in Kentucky. In a state with extraordinary potential to implement alternatives, such as solar, wind, and hydro energy production, increased use of renewable energy technologies could help alleviate long standing problems like unemployment, pollution, and the destruction of our natural resources,” Blevins said.
“Our utilities are government-sanctioned monopolies and energy production is not solely governed by the free market. Fossil fuel companies receive millions of dollars in subsidies and tax cuts. We ask that our elected officials represent the economic interests of their constituents by encouraging utilities to substantially increase their production of renewable energy and provide a greater variety of choices to their customers. Renewable energy can provide low electric rates and well-paying, safe jobs for Kentuckians.”
The legislators are interested in learning more about how renewable energy and energy efficiency can benefit Kentuckians. KSEC is calling on the Tourism Development and Energy Committee to vote on the act during the upcoming legislative session.
KY Students Meet Legislators to Advocate for Energy Opportunity Act
October 5, 2016
Legislators' Offices in Frankfort and Lexington
Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition members are meeting with Representative Mary Lou Marzian, Representative Brian Linder, Representative Tom McKee, Senator Julian Carroll, and Senator Reginald Thomas in Lexington and Frankfort for KSEC’s third Clean Energy Lobby Day on October 5th. The group of 10-15 high school and college students are lobbying for the Energy Opportunity Act which mandates Kentucky’s utility companies reach 12.5% renewable energy and increase energy efficiency by 10.25% within 10 years. It would also encourage low income communities to harness clean power with feed-in tariffs, allowing individuals to sell back their excess energy to utility companies at a wholesale price.
Meeting Times and Locations
Rep. Linder - 10:00 a.m., Frankfort office
Sen. Carroll - 11:30 a.m., Frankfort office
Rep. Marzian - 11:30 a.m., Frankfort office
Rep. McKee - 11:30 a.m., Frankfort office
Sen. Thomas - 2:00 p.m., Lexington office
Political Working Group Media Chair