New local jobs! Better health! Just Transition! Here's how.
There is a clear path forward for creating thousands of new Kentucky jobs in the energy industry while cutting pollution, lowering electric bills and investing billions of dollars in workers and communities affected by the decline in fossil fuels.
The plan for doing that was released Wednesday by KFTC members during a press conference and with the launch of a new website (www.empowerkentucky.org).
“This is our attempt as citizens to press the conversation forward and to bring to light the truth about what can be had and what can be done, and to really push the envelope around how we have the conversations about energy in the state,” said Nancy Reinhart, a member of the planning team from Shelbyville. “So this is exciting. This is what so few people have the time and resources to do but together at KFTC we’ve done it.”
The Empower Kentucky Plan modeled a number of different scenarios and created a plan that will:
- Create 46,300 more job-years for Kentuckians than “business as usual”
- Improve health by avoiding 93 thousand tons of sulfur dioxide and 132 thousand tons of nitrogen oxides pollution over 15 years
- Lower residential electric bills by 10%, compared to business as usual
- Invest $387 million in a Just Transition for Kentucky’s coal workers and communities
- Cut carbon dioxide pollution by 40% from Kentucky’s power sector from 2012 to 2032, exceeding the Clean Power Plan’s requirement
- Invest $11 billion in energy efficiency across our economy, and prioritize energy savings that benefit low-income households
- Result in a cleaner, more efficient and more diverse energy system
- Build 1,000 MW more solar, 600 MW more wind and 800 MW less natural gas capacity in Kentucky, and rely less on coal generation, than business as usual.
KFTC members call this the “Blueprint for a Just Transition to a clean energy economy in our state.”
“This plan is the result of almost two years of conversations with more than 1,200 people in every corner of Kentucky, along with deep participatory research and analysis,” said KFTC Chairperson Elizabeth Sanders of Whitesburg. “The Empower Kentucky Plan makes it clear that a Just Transition to a clean energy economy is possible in Kentucky.
“This plan accelerates energy efficiency and renewable energy across our economy, and puts a low price on harmful pollution. It delivers more jobs, less health-harming pollution and lower home energy bills than the business-as-usual case, while slashing greenhouse gas pollution and investing in a Just Transition.
"In short, this plan offers a blueprint, a positive vision and agenda Kentuckians can get behind as we work to build a bright future that we know is possible.”
The Empower Kentucky Plan
Empower Kentucky Plan (pdf)
Empower Kentucky poster (11 x 17)
This plan comes out of KFTC's decades of work to protect people, land, air, water and health. The creation of a detailed plan – one that is driven by a vision for Kentucky and shared values – was spurred by the void of leadership, evident for years but most blatant when two years ago state officials across the political spectrum said they would ignore the Clean Power Plan goals put forth by the Obama administration.
"The idea of Empower Kentucky is first to bring people together and try to raise everyone's voice, to bring everyone around the table," explained planning team member Laura Greenfield of Paris, who also headed up a work team to develop An Environmental Justice Analysis for Kentucky that is part of the plan.
"We did a lot of listening. We also did a lot of research. The Empower Kentucky Plan reflects the best ideas we heard and gathered for shaping a Just Transition to a clean energy economy," added Josh Bills, a commercial energy efficienct expert and KFTC member from Berea. "The plan is long and detailed and full of recommendations and action steps that could be taken today by mayors and city councils, on campuses and in congregations, in the state legislature, the Public Service Commission and by utilities themselves."
Cassia Herron of Louisville described at the press conference how KFTC went about gathering community input, including six A Seat at the Table events held a year ago.
“The Empower Kentucky project brought together diverse groups of people all across our state to co-create a vision and design this plan. At each event we invited guests to share a story about their relationship to Kentucky’s energy system. People spoke about asthma and black lung. Some spoke about efforts to become more energy efficient or use renewable energy. People described family members who worked in the mines or at power plants. Some talked about pollution and health problems affecting their families.
“So what did we learn from all this input?" Herron asked.
- "As Kentuckians, we are not happy with our energy choices and want better options.
- An overwhelming majority – 81% – of us want renewable energy and especially solar energy to play a key part in our energy future.
- We want energy to be affordable, and we recognize the key role that energy efficiency can play in keeping consumption and bills low.
- We want a just transition for miners, affected workers, and their communities.
- We want our sources of our electric power to be more diverse and to come from local and community owned distributed renewable energy.
- We also called for changes that extend far beyond our power sector, including a more sustainable food system and expanded mass transit.”
The Empower Kentucky Plan takes on those challenges head on, and considers those community values to be just as important considerations as technological ones in developing new energy systems.
Chris Woolery of Lexington provided an example.
“In Kentucky and across the Southeast, folks pay more as a percentage of income on energy than anywhere else in the country – if you imagine a person who pays a higher energy bill than their mortgage,” Woolery said. “If you take that energy bill back down to the size of my energy bill, that person might not have to work a second job. That person might be able to get involved in the PTA or run for city council.
"We supplied the world with coal at one time. Why can't we supply the world with renewable energy?"
Carl Shoupe, Benham
“Yes, there is economic development, along with environmental and health benefits. But the way I look at it, energy efficiency is literally power to the people."
After the press conference, members delivered a copy of the Empower Kentucky Plan to the office of Gov. Matt Bevin.
"We requested a meeting and weren't granted one but we are going to deliver it anyway and hope that he starts a conversation – a real one – in this state about the power that renewable energies have in the state to create jobs, healthier environment and more just communities," said Reinhart.
KFTC members acknowledge the current state and national political landscape that is hostile to putting people and the planet above profit.
"With the political landscape as bleak and dangerous as it is right now, we are realistic about the prospects of this plan," said Woolery. "We believe it provides a framework for powerful organizing that is already underway in communities around our state. It allows us to do more than just resist bad ideas. It provides a blueprint and agenda we can organize for and win.
"We are going to be doing these things whether our leaders get behind us or not."