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Why do we need community voices in energy?

Community Voices in Energy was created to advance energy justice and accelerate an equitable clean energy transition by bringing lived experiences to the forefront in energy decisions.

If community members’ experiences are included in the technical proceedings where decisions are made about their energy sources and costs, it will help speed the transition to an equitable, affordable, clean, and healthy energy future for everyone.

Who has made energy decisions in the past and how might this change?

This is a pivotal moment in both the energy industry and in our country’s racial reckoning. Decisions about energy are made in technical, complex forums where only the most sophisticated stakeholders have the resources, capacity, and knowledge to participate. As the energy sector transitions, we must address the high barriers to participation that have excluded all but the most well-resourced and sophisticated participants from past decision-making spaces. Energy decision makers have, historically, relied on a narrow definition of ‘expert’ that silences community voices. This reliance on epistemic authorities alone has resulted in decisions that perpetuate existing disparities. We must listen to different authorities to see different results. The energy transition is at our doorstep, and the future of energy must be just and equitable. What got us here will not get us there.

What is different about the Community Voices in Energy approach?

For the first time, community members’ perspectives are being included in the legal record in energy cases. Their lived experiences are on the same pages as the engineering and financial data. By demystifying public utilities commissions and their processes, Community Voices in Energy hopes to give everyday people the tools they need to overcome participation hurdles, tell their stories and assert their dignity.

This approach is also strategic. We know that stories are influential, and decisionmakers (and all people) are more likely to respond when they can understand and empathize with specific individuals. Individual stories combined with supporting technical data is powerful.

What types of training do you provide?

Community Voices in Energy provides trainings and certifications for people interested in advocating for their community or testifying in a utility case. The trainings provide foundational knowledge about energy issues and can help community experts get over the “imposter syndrome” and own their expertise. Additionally, trainings are conducted with a cohort of other students that you can learn from and lean on.
Our trainings are continuously evolving and improving. Cohort members know what they need to be successful, and they often suggest additions to our resources and curriculum.

If you are interested in participating in a training, let us know.

Do I have to have a specific case in mind to join a training cohort?

No. There are two training pathways: 1) a general cohort of participants who are interested in understanding how to participate in public utility commission proceedings and learning more about energy justice but do not yet have a case where they plan to testify; and 2) a cohort built around a specific case, place, and/or issue with trainings tailored to the specific circumstances, including assistance preparing testimony and participating in the case.

Who should participate?

Anyone who is impacted by energy and the climate – which is all of us. You do not need to have a background in clean energy issues. A willingness to learn and to share your perspectives is all the background you need. If you are interested in completing the Energy Justice Intervenor Certification, including submitting testimony in a public utility commission proceeding, the process requires a time commitment of approximately 40 hours of training, testimony preparation, and case participation.

What is a Certified Energy Justice Intervenor?

To receive an Energy Justice Intervenor certification, a person must: 1) complete the training program; 2) submit testimony in a public utility commission case or complete a project; and 3) complete an assessment. Our team works closely with participants to navigate the entire process, which can take up to a year depending on the project or rate case.

What does Equity or Environmental Justice Mean for PUCs?

More than two-thirds of states have given PUCs the authority and the duty to consider environmental justice, climate, and/or equity in their regulation of utilities. As a result of executive orders, lawsuits, and legislation, Commissions now have mandates from “Green Amendments” to cumulative impact assessments and general equity considerations. Regulators and stakeholders are interpreting equity and environmental justice authorities in an evolving landscape.

Why now?

We are in a unique window of opportunity: clean energy is affordable and widely available; the Inflation Reduction Act offers historic investment in the transition to clean energy; and states have set climate targets and other authorities that require regulators and utilities to consider how energy investments affect communities.