Maybe you’ve seen the news stories about the 16-year-old from Sweden who’s demanding climate action from our world leaders. Or you’ve watched a video on Instagram of one of the hundreds of marches taking place across the globe. Perhaps you’ve even attended a recent climate strike yourself.
The question now is… what comes next?
Because as Shane Johnson (Clean Energy Distributed Organizer with the Sierra Club) said in a recent interview with AEN, strikes alone will not lead to systemic, long-lasting change. That kind of impact will only come from communities coming together, getting organized, and calling on their elected officials to institute policies that reflect their values and desires.
“I think what’s important is to understand that fundamentally, this is using our country’s democratic process,” Shane said. “So it’s about policy change.
How do we get policy change? We get elected officials to vote to change it.
How do we get them to vote to change it? … You have two ways. You either have millions of dollars and you lobby them with professional lawyers, or you get lots and lots of people out there to tell them, ‘hey we’re your constituents and this is the right thing to do.'”
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be dedicating the majority of our news coverage to this question of, ‘what comes next?’. We’ll be taking this big global issue and making it local, as well as sharing proposed solutions, ideas from inspiring community leaders, and plenty of opportunities for you to get involved. It’s all part of a series we’re calling “Beyond the Strike.”
First up is energy.
As you may know, energy is a big source of global greenhouse gas emissions. Every time we turn on our lights, that power is coming from somewhere – coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind, solar, hydro…
Here in Austin, about half of our greenhouse gas emissions come from energy, which means that changing where we get our energy could have a pretty big impact on climate change.
A few quick facts you should know:
- In Austin, we have a publicly-owned electric utility, which means that City Council (and by extension, all of us) have a say over where our electricity comes from. That’s a pretty big deal.
- Austin has set a goal to get 65 percent of our energy from renewables by 2027
- Currently, we get about 41 percent of our energy from renewables
- Every two years, Austin Energy undergoes a resource planning update process. During this process, new renewable energy targets/goals are set and big decisions are made about where the city should its energy for the next 10 years.
What’s happening now?
The 2019/2020 resource planning process has just begun with the help of the Electric Utility Commission Resource Planning Working Group. This is basically just a fancy name for the group of environmental activists and community leaders who are tasked with going through the studies and data Austin Energy has compiled about how quickly we can transition to 100 percent renewables (and at what price).
Over the next few months, this group will be meeting regularly to hear from the larger community and to discuss/debate our energy options going forward. At the end of this process, they’ll put forth an official recommendation, which City Council will then have to approve.
How to get involved:
If you’re passionate about taking action on climate change, getting involved with our city’s energy policy is a very clear and concrete way to have an impact. And it’s not all just boring data and statistics either! Transitioning away from fossil fuels brings up a lot of real questions over environmental justice and ensuring that our fellow neighbors and Austinites are not left behind, especially as coal/natural gas plants close or electricity prices change.
“What I’ve seen again and again over the last few years is that, we have a climate march, a people’s climate march, then we have another one two years later, then we have a climate strike, and another climate strike. And if all we’re doing is having these rallies… quite frankly that’s not going to change anything,” Shane said, in a recent interview with AEN. “That has to be a step in the process…These are great opportunities to recruit people and train them in how to community organize, how to build political power, particularly for folks who are least represented…”
If this sounds interesting to you, there are a few ways for you to take action:
1. Attend an upcoming meeting of the Electric Utility Commission Resource Planning Working Group.
Meetings will be held from 4pm to 6pm in Room 100 at Town Lake Center, 721 Barton Springs Rd. (except October 24 in Room 126).
- September 12, 26
- October 10, 24
- November 7, 21
- December 5, 19
- January 9, 23 (tentative dates should meetings be required)
At the meetings you’ll be able to learn more about local energy policy, meet with others who are interested in climate action, and even share your own thoughts and opinions. Citizen Communication is allowed at the start of each second meeting of each month. The first five speakers to sign up will have three minutes.
2. Read one of our guest blogs (written by local community leaders) on how to get more involved with energy advocacy in Austin.
- “We Need Your Voice! It’s Time To Update Austin Energy’s Resource Plan” – written by Shane Johnson
- “How Quickly Can Austin’s Electric Utility Go Carbon Free?” – written by Al Braden, a member of the Electric Utility Commission Resource Planning Working Group
3. Get involved with one of the local nonprofit organizations active in energy policy work.
4. Make a small personal lifestyle change. If your budget allows it, switch to GreenChoice.
With Austin Energy’s GreenChoice program, you can make the switch to carbon-free electricity right away! All Austin Energy customers are eligible to subscribe to GreenChoice, which allows you to support 100 percent Texas wind power (without actually installing a turbine in your front yard).
And the best part is, GreenChoice is fairly inexpensive. On average, it costs about $7.50 more per month on your electricity bill. Interested? You can sign up here.