NAACP Power to the People: Fueling the Revolution for Energy Justice

The NAACP’s Environmental and Climate Justice Program was created to support community leadership in addressing the issue of environmental justice, the disproportionate impact of climate change on communities of color and low income communities in the United States. Power to the People is a national NAACP campaign that aims to “fuel the revolution for energy justice”.

Jacqui Patterson, director for the NAACP’s Environmental and Climate Justice program, explains why “energy is one of the most universally impactful civil rights issues of our time.” Nationwide, 78% of African-American children live near a coal plant, and are two to three times more likely to die of an asthma attack than white children. According to the American Association of Blacks in Energy, African Americans hold only 1.1% of energy jobs and gain less than 0.01% of the revenue from the energy sector, despite spending an average of $41 billion on energy annually. 

The NAACP has determined that it is critical for the nation to shift to an energy-efficient, clean energy economy to provide clean air and water and to create healthier communities. The NAACP sees the transition to clean energy as essential to its economic justice and democracy agendas. For example, individual and community wealth can be built through co-ownership of energy infrastructure. Economic opportunities can be provided through clean energy jobs. 

The Power to the People campaign uplifts state and local NAACP branches who are working with communities most impacted by energy injustice. Communities from Fairbanks, AK, to Alachua County, FL, are launching community solar projects. Communities in Maryland and Ohio are engaging in Community Energy Purchase Agreements. In Mississippi, communities are working on democratizing their rural electric co-ops and increasing focus on energy efficiency and clean energy. 

The NAACP released a Just Energy Policies and Practices Action Toolkit which includes eight modules of practical, user-friendly guidance on how to phase out toxic energy like coal, nuclear, and oil facilities and replace them with clean energy sources like wind and solar. The modules, listed below, can be implemented individually or as a group.

Module 1: Getting Organized So You Can Organize!

Module 2: Legislative Campaigns for Energy Justice

Module 3: Engaging Your Utility Company and Regulators

Module 4: Starting Community-Owned Clean Energy Projects

Module 5: Starting an Energy Cooperative

Module 6: Starting a Community Energy Efficiency, Retrofitting, and Weatherization Project

Module 7: Educating and Organizing for Energy Justice

Module 8: Direct Action Campaigning for Energy Justice

Just Energy Policies and Practices Action Toolkit Glossary

The toolkit provides a wealth of information, resources, and examples, as well as actionable steps communities can take to transition to clean energy. 

Module 2 contains information on how a team can run a legislative campaign for energy justice in a community. Examples of legislative advocacy for energy justice include advocating for a bill, a local ordinance, budget advocacy, or speaking at a town hall. The module provides a step-by-step guide to the legislative process and a draft bill worksheet. It explains how to pass Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), which require that a certain amount of energy supplied from electric utility companies must be from renewable energy sources. It also includes instructions for passing Energy Efficiency Resources Standards (EERS), which require utility companies to reduce their energy sales by a certain percentage by requiring them to implement energy efficiency and conservation programs for their customers. The module provides information about community benefits agreements, how to pass offshore wind bills, how to pass anti-fracking bills, and how to oppose fixed charge bills. It includes references like successfully passed bills and existing Community Benefits Agreements. 

Module 4 is a deep-dive into establishing community-owned clean energy projects. It describes pathways to clean energy, including solar tax credits, Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) Programs, and Green Banks. The module then details steps to establishing a community-owned clean energy project and provides a framework to complete those steps, with specific project visioning questions, required roles and responsibilities, and energy project organizational structures. 

New York State has a Renewable Portfolio Standard and a Clean Energy Standard. New York also recently approved a PACE program. 

The NAACP recognizes the critical importance of clean energy for the health and well-being of low income and African American communities. Through its Environmental and Climate Justice Program and Power to the People campaign, the NAACP is driving the transition to clean energy on the ground and through legislation. The NAACP’s Just Energy Policies and Practices Action Toolkit provides a wealth of valuable information that citizens can implement in their own communities to address environmental justice issues. 

The NAACP accepts donations to support its mission to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.


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