Energy Efficiency in the New Economy

The Alliance to Develop Power has invited our closest allies to help us get the word out about our participation in the JobRaising Challenge. We've asked them to share stories of their work with us, explaining how our joint efforts tackle some of the most intractable problems in our communities. We want to demonstrate how collaboration is key to creating jobs and expanding our vision of a new community economy.

By Joel Wool, Community Organizer
Clean Water Action

The cold air is seeping in.

You come home after a long day at one job, two jobs, a day spent searching for a job -- you come home, and you see it on the counter again.

On the counter, an envelope begs to be opened, a letter begs to be read. You know what you're seeing, but even as your finger breaks the seal, you're overtaken by a feeling of dread. You know what's next: inside is a tally of omissions, of debts that you will pay in full by subtracting from tomorrow, by living a little less.

This week I will buy no meat, no greens. Your utilities cost you, and sometimes they cost so much your health takes a hit. The folded tariff that slips through your mail slot every month is the price exacted for power. When the winds blow and the weather chills, your pocket leaks like a sieve.

Suddenly, there's a knock at your door. It's your neighbor: he's here to tell you that instead of losing your cash to cold, you can reduce costs and help clean up the air in the process. You can weatherize your home.

He invites you to a meeting hosted by the Alliance to Develop Power.

What you hear that night shocks you--not just because the opportunity sounds too good to be true, but because no one had bothered to tell you about it before. You're a bit skeptical, but you decide to try out the Mass Save program because you trust ADP. You believe them tonight because you believe in their work.

These are, after all, the same people who brought turkeys to your neighbors for Thanksgiving, the same people whose cooperative, United For Hire, employs youth in your community to cut lawns, paint walls, and shovel snow. So you trust what you hear: if you sign up to get your home audited, you can cut energy use and save money.

You begin to develop power.

Energy efficiency reduces waste, slashing bills that many of us simply can't afford. It saves our lungs by reducing our dependence on harmful fossil fuels, such as coal-fired power. It creates good, green jobs. Here in the Bay State, we like to brag that our programs top the national efficiency charts.


But for all that to be true across the board, our energy programs, and the jobs that come with them, must be accessible to ALL people. To build great communities, we need good jobs for people of every race, class, creed and color.

When Clean Water Action joined with ADP and the Green Justice Coalition to reform state weatherization programs, we did so for a simple reason: low-to-moderate income residents, renters, communities of color, immigrants and non-English speakers were being left out. They still paid for efficiency services on their utility bills -- we "Bay Staters" all do -- but could not access these services because of barriers such as language, trust, one-size-fits-all rebates or barriers to weatherization like antiquated wiring or leaky roofs. Likewise - jobs in this "emerging" sector were not available to low wage workers and people of color, either.

We brought together unions, environmentalists, and community groups to advocate for "hard-to-reach, hard-to-serve communities" that often get left out of these programs and the local jobs they could create. Residents of Springfield, Chelsea, Boston's Chinatown and Fall River packed state hearings, fighting their way to new innovative energy efficiency pilots launched across the state. Expanded community marketing and union apprenticeship programs opened new opportunities for many. Even the pilots' pitfalls would subsequently prove the basis for substantive reform.

This cooperation continues to win victories in triplicate: uniting people, saving the planet and spreading prosperity. As ADP shifts its focus to a new campaign for an equitable transit system -- a fair, well-funded pathway to work, community and school -- our coalition is learning from their model, bringing energy on tour.

You are cold at home and cannot afford the co-pay for weatherization work. So you knock on a neighbor's door. You ask them to come out with you to a rally, in Springfield, in Chelsea, in Boston, to call on the state's leadership for Green Justice.

At Clean Water Action, we believe strength is built on grassroots power. Together with our friends at ADP and the Green Justice Coalition, we have this to say:

Power on. Power Forward.