By Cara Cooper, KSEC State Organizer
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people tell me that renewable energy is great, but it just doesn’t work in Kentucky. What a joke. We know it does work and is already putting people to work all across the Commonwealth (just check out some of the awesome solar installations through this interactive map).
Caption: Renewable Energy is already working in all regions of the state. From left to right: KSEC members educating Senator Reggie Thomas about renewables in Murray, KY, Solar panels at the KY National Guard in Frankfort during a KSEC Energy Future Tour, Solar panels recently installed at the KY Coal Mining Museum in Benham, KY (see these at our Solution Spotlight event on June 10th)
For me, investing in growing the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors seems like plain ol’ good sense. Kentucky has a rich history of being an energy leader and providing electricity to power our country. As the coal industry dies we can continue to be energy leaders by making the transition to cleaner sources like solar, wind and micro-scale hydroelectric.
Not only can this emerging industry help to protect our natural resources, communities’ health and lessen the impacts of climate change but it can also create thousands of good jobs that our state needs. (According to a study done several years ago, with a number as low as 12.5% of our electricity coming from renewables we could create 28,000 net new jobs!).
If you are a young person, wondering how you will stay in Kentucky after graduation and find meaningful employment, or someone who’s family has been a part of the energy industry here for generations, renewable energy and energy efficiency jobs could be a good place for you and something you could feel good about doing.
Join us for our 2nd Solution Spotlight event (as a part of our ongoing Solutions Tour) to meet folks who are already hard at work building this emerging industry in Eastern Kentucky and learn more about what it’s like to work in the new energy sector and what it takes to get a job doing this work.
KSEC Political Working Group Building Momentum for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in Frankfort
By Will Cripps, KSEC Political Working Group Organizer
I joined the political working group in the begining 2015. The legislative session was just starting and the working group was gearing up to go to the capitol with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth to lobby against mountaintop removal as a part of I Love Mountains Day. I skipped the lobbying because I was nervous. I did however start joining in on the conference calls. Every week. At 9 at night. It was a dedicated crew.
Tyler Offerman was the organizer of the working group at the time and had been since 2014 when the PWG was founded. It was under his leadership that the working group launched its current campaign, the Power to the People campaign. The goal of the Power to the People campaign is to pass comprehensive renewable energy and energy efficiency legislation that creates a roadmap for just economic transition. A tall order for a bunch of college students who are still trying to pass their classes.
At first the Political Working Group was part of a larger coalition, the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance (KySEA). KySEA was working on passing the Energy Opportunity Act which would increase the renewable energy infrastructure in Kentucky, and create 28,000 jobs. KySEA hadn’t seen much success with the bill and many of the coalition partners were disengaging.
The PWG still had high hopes for the bill and the opportunity it could provide for Kentucky, so even as less support came from the KySEA the working group doubled down on their efforts and in the summer of 2015, a year after they began supporting the Energy Opportunity Act and 5 years after the act had first been introduced, the PWG secured the first senate sponsor, Senator Reginald Thomas. Senator Thomas was excited about the bill and to help get him up to speed on the value that renewable energy could provide in Kentucky, the Political Working Group hosted a clean energy tour. The tour was so successful that Senator Thomas has asked that it become an annual event that legislators could attend to learn about clean energy.
Moving into the 2016 legislative session the PWG kept up the pressure in the Senate, the hope being that if the Energy Opportunity Act could be moved through both the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously it would be able to go immediately to the governor's desk, or if the bill did get held up in one branch, the PWG could still push for progress in the other. This strategy has already been effective: As Representative John Short has blocked the Bill in the House, the PWG has managed to gain more support in the Senate.
2016 has been a busy year for the Political Working Group. We held a protest on the capitol lawn, planting a windmill for every 10 of our supporters. We organized the second annual clean energy tour, where even we learned some new facts. Did you know the bluegrass hosts great wind potential?
The momentum is building, every year we get closer to our goal. Clean energy will come to Kentucky, but the sooner it gets here, the more our commonwealth will benefit. If you’re interested in securing Kentucky’s future, join the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition, and fight for an energy revolution.
By Grace Engelman, KSEC, Monterey, KY
Last Wednesday, the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition headed to Frankfort for the Clean Energy Lobby Day. The passion my peers have for our state and its environment blew me away. Growing up in a rural Kentucky county, I struggled to find young people with whom I could relate. KSEC has given me the opportunity to meet like-minded students who are prepared to take action on behalf of their fellow Kentuckians and our shared environment. It gives us a chance to make our voices heard. I think that this unique opportunity is where the appeal of KSEC lies for many of its members. Countless young people are afraid to speak out because they are worried that no one will hear their voice. KSEC gives us a platform on which to unite and make our message heard. We can create a powerful movement that can resonate with millions of Kentuckians. We can generate meaningful change. We can speak up on behalf of the environment without fear that our voices will be silenced or drowned out. While our lawmakers may not pay attention to a solitary voice, they cannot ignore hundreds.
My fellow KSEC members and I represent a statewide effort to give power to the people and forge the path to a bright future for our world. Our state, our country, and our planet depend on young people to put an end to climate change and encourage sustainability out of respect for our environment. Together, we can change Kentucky’s policies to promote the health of our ecosystems and our people.
In Frankfort, we discussed Senate Bill 190 and House Bill 339. This was my first experience with KSEC, and I absolutely loved it. As a high school sophomore, I was nervous to participate in an organization composed mostly of college students. However, as soon as I got the opportunity to speak with members, I felt welcomed and I was ready to fully immerse myself in this group.
After meeting my fellow KSEC members, we headed upstairs to speak with Senator Reggie Thomas, a sponsor of the bill. Afterwards, our groups split up to meet a number of other senators and representatives. My group met Representative Thomas McKee of Scott County. He showed interest in renewable energy and became engaged with our stories and the specifics of the bill. Once we finished our meeting with Representative McKee, KSEC members headed down to a hearing on a bill regarding coal miner safety, an important issue for many of our members. Later, we split up once more to distribute the outline of the bill.
We congregated for a debriefing to discuss the outcomes of our meetings. Then, we headed over to the Capitol Rotunda for a forum with our fellow members. Several students spoke about their own experiences with the group, and we participated in a powerful open discussion about youth participation, why we're involved with KSEC, and Kentucky’s energy future. I left Frankfort feeling hopeful for the state I call home and the future of my generation.
By Cara Cooper, KSEC Organizer
I can feel a change in the air when it comes to renewable energy in Kentucky, and it’s pretty damn exciting.
In the three years that I have been working with the KY Student Environmental Coalition we have seen more and more growing support from Kentuckians for renewable energy, green jobs and just transition. I have personally watched hundreds of young people go from feeling like there is nothing that we can do, to truly believing in collective power and our ability to make our futures better. In fact we’ve collected thousands of signature petitions from people, like you, who know that it is high time that our legislators hear our demands for the energy and industries of the future.
And our legislators are hearing us. Earlier this month we hosted a pinwheel planting event, where we planted over 200 pinwheels (each representing 10 petition signatures) out on the State Capitol lawn and then we went inside the capitol to a hearing on clean energy in the house economic development committee.
For the first time, we didn’t hear any push back from our elected officials about the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy, only questions about how it would work and how agriculture and farmers would be impacted. As the coal industry busts, for perhaps it’s last time, it is getting harder and harder to ignore the tens of thousands of jobs being created in nearby states, the ever growing energy bills from Kentuckians without access to energy efficiency, and the demand for new energy transition coming from their constituents.
That is why now is the time to put even more pressure on our elected officials to move us in the right direction and to build even more support for energy efficiency and renewable energy legislation.
We’ll be hitting the sidewalks (and libraries and cafeterias and classrooms) at five different campuses over the next five days collecting petition signatures so that when we head back to Frankfort on March 9th for our Clean Energy Lobby Day we can plant wayy more pinwheels and show the growing demand of young people. It is our future and we deserve a say in how it’s powered.
Join us at Transy, EKU, Morehead, Centre and UK this week to gather signatures and educate our peers AND THEN JOIN US IN FRANKFORT. Your voice is so important, and we can’t do it without you!
Stay tuned for more updates as the campus tour launches tonight and as we travel around the state in the next five days and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
By Sammy Meador, Intern, KY Student Environmental Coalition
The Young Kentuckian is a blog of the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition where youth share their work and ideas for Kentucky's bright future.
Follow The Young Kentuckian on Facebook!