This blog was written by Michael MacMillar, former Regional Organizer at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.Guest Blog | August 8, 2019
This post is the third in a series celebrating the accomplishments of all the amazing people supporting Renew TN since the campaign began a year ago. Renew TN aims to reduce energy bill burdens for Tennesseans most in need; allow solar energy to flourish; and put the “public” back in public power. You can find other articles in the series here.
Over the past year, volunteers have jumped into leadership on the #RenewTN campaign in Nashville, helping establish new goals in city policy and bringing people together to form a vision for energy democracy at TVA.
Bringing the noise to city council
Earlier in the spring, Metro Nashville Councilman Freddie O’Connnell introduced a trio of bills involving energy usage. I knew right away we needed to get community support for them to pass.
I was new to Nashville, but met Colin Martin and Katie Breifes, who also were new to the city and invested in fighting the urgent crisis of climate change. We got together to strategize on best options to use, then took those ideas and went to work.
We were really interested in community education. So, using the information that I shared with them to teach other citizens about our relationship with our utility companies like Nashville Electric Service (NES), we got started. We took petition sign up sheets, found people who were passionate about energy issues and invited them to the city council meeting. We used our database to phone our neighbors and engage them in the effort.
As a result, we were a part of the larger team that got 85+ people to show up in green clothing on the night of the second council vote!
Eventually, Nashville Metro Council passed the bills to advance clean energy. BL 2019-1598 will require that the Metro government fleet will be zero-emission vehicles by the year 2050. BL 2019-1599 will retrofit some of Metro owned buildings to lower each building’s energy usage. BL 2019-1600 establishes a renewable energy standard for the Metro government, and mandates Metro government energy usage to be 100% carbon-free by 2040.
This win is the result of a combination of local environmental groups and grassroots organizing by volunteers. Our goal to fill the room with people wearing green was rooted in the notion that people of all races, ages, and districts making the effort to gather on a school night would pressure council members to support the bills. Our assumption was correct. Without these volunteers, none of this would have been possible.
Energy democracy at TVA
Just last week, another indicator of progress in our fight for clean energy was our involvement with the Energy Democracy Road tour stop in Nashville. There were about 50 people in the room, including SACE volunteers, learning the history of TVA and envisioning how to “put the ‘public’ back in public power.” The diversity in the group made for rich conversation in breakout sessions. Since SACE was a co-host, I got to take the floor and enable everyone to share our recent successes around Tennessee.