Creating Local POWER in the Latino Community
July 19 2012
In case you didn’t know by now, Latinos DO care about the environment. In poll after poll, public opinion confirms that Latinos care about the cleanliness of their air and water, and they strongly support action on climate change and the development of clean energy jobs. We confirmed this recently in Denver at an NCLR town hall meeting held June 27, 2012 at the Mi Casa Resource Center.
Colorado, being a national leader on clean energy policies, was a natural place to engage Hispanics on this issue. It is the first state to implement a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) which requires investor-owned utilities to provide 30% of their electricity sales from renewables by 2020. As a result of the RPS, Colorado is actively reducing its use of limited energy sources such as coal and oil, while generating more power from renewable sources such as solar and wind. The Honorable Federico Peña—the first Hispanic mayor of Denver and the U.S. Secretary of Energy and Secretary of Transportation under President Clinton—joined NCLR at the town hall to help explain and discuss how this shift is affecting the jobs, health, and economic security of Latino workers and families in Colorado. He also emphasized the importance of civic participation for Hispanics to not only ensure that their voices are heard, but also to hold their elected officials accountable in proposing clean energy policies that are in the best interests of Hispanic communities.
In addition to Peña, the town hall also featured presentations by NCLR’s Alicia Criado, Policy Associate with the Economic and Employment Policy Project, who led participants through an interactive story of the energy supply chain based on the Center for Urban Pedagogy’s “Power Trip” teaching tool, and explained how we get our energy. Joy Hughes, founder of the Solar Gardens Institute, presented solar gardens, or community-owned solar arrays, as one of several models to build local power and make renewable energy more accessible to individuals and low-income communities. Colorado’s National Renewable Energy Labs states that local ownership programs can create two to three times as many jobs per megawatt produced as the larger companies, and these local jobs keep over three times as much money and wealth inside a community.
When Colorado experienced its worst fire season in history, the alarm bell sounded for many Latino Coloradans, who were reminded why we cannot wait any longer. Peña emphasized that Latinos can and must develop the technology and models like solar gardens that move our communities to clean, renewable, 21st century energy sources. Looking ahead, NCLR plans to continue community engagement efforts around clean energy and remind people why voting and civic participation are key to ensuring the Hispanic community’s seat at the table in shaping the future of energy policy at both the state and national levels. If you would like to see NCLR come to your city and engage your community members around clean energy issues, let us know!