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National Training | Sign up by February 20th

About the Toolkit

Frontline, BIPOC, and low-income communities have historically been excluded from energy regulatory and legal decision-making spaces that directly impact their quality of life. Not only are these communities intentionally shut out of the complex legal system governing enormous energy decisions, but when they do get involved, their expertise is often relegated to arenas with less authority and weight, such as public comments that are not a part of the legal record on which decisions can be made. Energy decision makers have historically relied on a narrow definition of ‘expert’ that silences community voices. It does not have to be this way.

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Learn about the issues.

How do energy decisions impact communities?

Energy is a life-essential service, but access to reliable energy is not equitable today. Furthermore, communities located near polluting power plants experience harmful consequences to their health — such as high rates of asthma and lung disease — as well as to their wealth, including lowered property values and spiking energy rates. Additionally, energy is among the largest sources of man-made climate pollution in the world, and energy decisions that harm the climate contribute to extreme weather, heat and other harmful effects. What’s more, the energy industry is an economic driver, employing millions of Americans. Conversely, energy unaffordability that forces households to forego other essentials, keep their homes at unsafe temperatures, or even live without electricity or heat due to disconnections, can be a tipping point for health and wealth. Energy is foundational for our everyday lives.

Why is energy more reliable for some people than others?

Research has shown that some distribution utilities historically invest more in wealthier neighborhoods and underinvest in low income neighborhoods. As a result, low income communities experience more blackouts, slower repairs and less reliable service — even though they pay the same rates as wealthier community members for the gas and electricity they use.

Who will get to participate in a new green economy?

In an equitable energy system, communities — including low-income and traditionally marginalized communities — should have a voice in their energy system, a role in shaping energy decisions, and economic participation in the benefits. As we transition to a cleaner energy future, communities’ perspectives must be duly recognized, and communities must receive a just and equitable distribution of benefits.

How can we make sure the energy of the future is affordable to all?

Energy regulators have a moral — and, increasingly, a legal — obligation to ensure that energy systems are fair, beneficial and healthy to all communities, and that new investments are not only equitable across the entire customer base but also serve to remediate the social, economic, and health burdens placed on marginalized communities by energy systems in the past. With the clean energy transition at our doorstep, now is the time to do things differently.

Trainings

The trainings below explain the basics of public utility regulation, the regulatory process, trends in energy and the clean energy transition. They provide foundational knowledge for participating in a public utility commission case and for developing testimony.

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Training

What is a Utility Rate Case

Natural gas and electricity utilities are subject to special government rules, and the amount of profit they are allowed to earn is regulated by the state through rate cases.
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Training

Ethical Storytelling

Ethical storytelling puts people and communities who have been harmed together with organizations, collaborating to seek solutions and create powerful change.
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Training

Energy Democracy 101

In an energy democracy, frontline communities and their allies have a strong voice and leading role in shaping and participating in energy decisions, and energy resource benefit their communities while remediating past harm.
Training

Foundations of Energy Equity

In an equitable energy system, everyone has access to safe and reliable energy and the benefits of the clean energy transition. Energy equity is connected to the environmental justice movement, which has its roots in the civil rights movement.
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Training

Energy Policy Trends

Covers trends in clean energy, emerging issues in energy policy, and recent legislation and policies.
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Training

Utility Tactics: How Utilities Achieve Their Goals

Utilities generally aim to protect shareholders by increasing profits and decreasing costs. Utilities have an incentive to build out infrastructure: for operational costs they can only recoup the cost of operations, but for capital investments they can recoup costs plus a profit.

Testimonies

The sample testimonies have been submitted to public utility commissions in actual rate cases. These testimonies illustrate the kind of information that is typically included in a testimony, as well as the tone and style that is effective with regulators.

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Microphone in a court room
Technical Expert Testimony

Andrew Barbeau

Technical expert Andrew Barbeau testified that ComEd’s proposal to use system-wide metrics to measure reliability disadvantages the residents of more vulnerable frontline communities. Instead, the needs of these communities must be front and center in the utility’s plans.
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Community Expert Testimony

Gregory Norris

Community expert Gregory Norris, founder of an environmental justice organization, testified that lack of affordable energy has an outsized impact on Black and brown neighborhoods. Solutions will only be implemented justly if there is intention and accountability. ComEd can use tenets of energy justice to guide grid planning.
Microphone in a court room
Community Expert Testimony

Kelly McCleary

Community expert Kelly McCleary testified that higher rates can lead to a cascade of problems. The higher rates get, the fewer customers will be able to afford to invest in clean energy, including energy efficiency, and save in the future. Utilities should invest in making the grid more ready for renewable energy, not just user rate hikes to garner higher profits for shareholders.
Microphone in a court room
Community Expert Testimony

Ryan O’Donnell

Community expert Ryan O'Donnell testified that communities should have energy sovereignty, meaning some degree of ownership over the means of energy production. Benefits of the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) should be visible, making the system more fair and balanced environmentally and economically.
Microphone in a court room
Community Expert Testimony

Cheryl Watson

Community expert Cheryl Watson testified that utility policies contribute to and exacerbate cumulative burdens to disadvantaged communities and must be changed. Utilities need to be more holistic and community centered, planning with the community, not for them.
Microphone in a court room
Technical Expert Testimony

Justin Schott

Technical expert Justin Schott testified that Peoples Gas’ disconnection and late fee practices and qualifications for low-income discounts are placing undue energy burdens on BIPOC communities.
Microphone in a court room
Technical Expert Testimony

Chris Neme

Technical expert Chris Neme testified that transitioning single-family homes from gas furnaces to electricity is cost-effective for the average homeowner in Peoples Gas service territory.
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Technical Expert Testimony

Dr. Guillermo Pereira

Technical expert Guillermo Pereira testified that ComEd must create a detailed framework to track and report on how proposed benefits would reach households, to comply with the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act.

Our Experts

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Cheryl Watson

An Environmental Advocate, Cheryl wanted to take her work to the next level by intervening in ICC utility cases. Participating in the Certified Energy Justice Intervenor program provided her the opportunity to learn about the ICC procedures and how to develop an impactful testimony to benefit fellow impacted consumers.
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Ryan O’Donnell

Ryan O'Donnell is Chief Strategist at FAOU Strategies. He works with organizations and businesses to meet their goals in environmentalism, economic development, meaningful growth, and social impact. His activism in and on behalf of organizations like the NAACP have helped provide the tools and expertise for movements to succeed, from organizing protests and digital actions to tracking legislation. After testifying with EDF in a utility case once before, he joined EDF's pilot Energy Justice Intervenor program to learn more and has helped shape the program for more community organizers to navigate utility cases.
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Kelly McCleary

Kelly’s personal experience contacting her energy provider and finding their lack of affordability programs for middle and low-income households inspired her to complete the program to get a deep dive into utility company tactics. She hopes to use this experience to further the cause of attainting sustainable, affordable, and equitable energy for my community.
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Chama St. Louis

Chama St. Louis is the Organizing Director for the National Black Worker Center to organize and mobilize Black workers across the country to take action against racism and discrimination in the workplace. She also owns an aerial arts business and a private hypnotherapy and life coaching practice. She’s fueled by her passion to economically empower Black people, educating her community about civic engagement, and holding decision makers accountable to the communities they serve.
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Wasiu Adesope

Wasiu is the Sustainable Engineering Associate for Blacks in Green. He joined this work to stop the unbridled exploitation of legacy energy companies and make the benefits of clean energy translate to increased opportunities to communities that have for too long had the short end of the stick. He holds a Masters degree in Environmental Engineering from Purdue University and has a background in sustainable production and project management.

Dawn Dannenbring

Lead Organizer, Illinois People's Action

Dawn Dannenbring is the Lead Organizer for Illinois People's Action where she organizes on environmental justice issues. Current work focuses on (1) ensuring Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) implementation occurs in a racially just way and (2) fighting false solutions that would weaken CEJA and its goals of building out renewable energy leading with racial equity.

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Gregory Norris

Gregory serves as a Leadership Team Member with the Downstate Caucus of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition. He was instrumental in advocating for the signing of CEJA, the Illinois Climate and Equitable Jobs Act. Due to the lack of available Black-led spaces, he founded the group Illinois Social Equality, Equity -Environmental Justice40. He has served as the NAACP Illinois State Conference Veteran Affairs State Chair, as the Illinois Carbondale NAACP Branch’s Environmental Climate Justice Chair, and many other leadership roles in groups and coalitions working to advance equity, including equitable environmental strategies.
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Dr. Gabe Chan

Gabe Chan is an associate professor at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs in the Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (STEP) area. Gabe’s research examines policies to simulate innovation in energy technologies and mitigate global climate change in the United States, China, and internationally. Gabe’s research blends economic methods and theory with a broader set of social science and technical knowledge.
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Dr. Destenie Nock

Dr. Destenie Nock is an Assistant Professor in Civil & Environmental Engineering (CEE), and in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy (EPP) at Carnegie Mellon University. She is a leader in energy justice, and energy systems modeling. She uses multi-criteria decision analysis and applied optimization to better equip policy makers to understand energy planning options.
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Andrew Barbeau

Andrew Barbeau is President of The Accelerate Group, a nationally-focused strategic consulting and innovation firm focused on accelerating large civic change initiatives. Through The Accelerate Group, Mr. Barbeau has helped companies, governments, and not-for-profits working to advance clean tech, smart cities, innovative government and economic development projects at a local and global scale.
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Dr. Guillermo Pereira

Guillermo Pereira is an Energy Policy Researcher in the Electricity Markets and Policy Department at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He conducts research on projects focusing on electrification, distribution system planning, and grid-interactive efficient buildings. Previously, Guillermo was a Senior Energy Analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, where he focused on state and regional efforts related to wholesale energy market reforms and public utility commission dockets, with emphasis on distribution grid planning and innovation pilots, in Michigan and Illinois.
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Justin Schott

Justin Schott serves as Project Manager of the Energy Equity Project (EEP) and Lecturer of Energy Justice in University of Michigan's School for Environment and Sustainability. He is honored to work in a field full of creative, savvy justice-minded colleagues, students and allies and is fascinated by conversations about how to drive and measure equity in clean energy investments.
Chris Neme Headshot

Chris Neme

Principal of Energy Futures Group (EFG)
Chris Neme is a Principal of Energy Futures Group (EFG), a clean energy consulting firm with staff in Vermont, New York, North Carolina, and Colorado. During his more than 25 years in the industry, Chris has helped clients in 30+ states, 7 Canadian provinces and several European countries with a variety of energy efficiency, demand response, strategic electrification and other distributed energy resource programs and policies. He has also critically reviewed state and utility decarbonization studies and plans, supported the development of Clean Heat Standards in several states, developed recommendations for consideration of non-wires and non-pipe alternatives to electric and gas utility distribution system investments, and co-authored the National Standard Practice Manual for Benefit-Cost Analysis of Distributed Energy Resources. Chris has filed expert witness testimony on a range of issues in more than 75 cases before thirteen different state and provincial public utility commissions.

Many public utility commissions also have other ways to get involved, including: public comment (written or oral), workshops, and the opportunity to ask for a meeting with decision-makers and their staff.

Become a certified energy justice intervenor.
Are you interested in testifying in a utility rate case?