Take Action to Ensure Utilities Suspend Disconnections + Recommended Resources and Reading Roundup While Practicing Social Distancing During COVID-19

Kate Tracy, Jennifer Rennicks, and Brady Watson | March 18, 2020 | Climate Change, Energy Policy, Utilities

Millions of people are facing unprecedented hardship as the COVID-19 coronavirus takes its toll on public health and livelihoods. The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) has spent decades advocating for smart energy policies that conserve resources and protect customers, especially those most vulnerable to high bills. This work continues to be critically important in these uncertain times, especially as we and our neighbors may struggle even more than normal to pay our bills. It is critically important for power companies to make sure that no one is left behind and no one’s utilities are shut off, especially as people are encouraged to stay home. 

Forward-thinking utilities and jurisdictions nationwide have already implemented non-cutoff policies to protect vulnerable customers during this questionable time. This guest blog written by our allies at the Energy and Policy Institute can help you to see whether your own utility has implemented such a policy. (Please note, the blog will be updated regularly and is not exhaustive.) We commend utilities who are taking steps to allow continuous coverage of utility services. However, a consistent policy that endures throughout the crisis would help ensure the safety of ALL customers. We encourage you to take action today and contact your elected officials to urge them to order utilities to suspend disconnections for the duration of the coronavirus crisis and commit to investments in energy efficiency and solar energy that lower bills and reduce pollution that harms public health. 

We signed on with 575+ other groups to demand our Governors to STOP all power and water shut-offs now, invest in distributed energy and equitable payment systems for the future. Click here to read it.

TAKE ACTION

After taking the action above, we encourage you to spend some time perusing the rest of this blog which highlights some of SACE staff’s recent blogs, webinars, and actions illustrating the importance of our ongoing work in advocating for clean, safe and healthy communities throughout the Southeast, particularly during this rapidly evolving time.

Finally, don’t forget to connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Now more than ever, let’s use social media as a way to engage in deeper dialogue about the work we do, the priorities of SACE, and the needs of our region to successfully tackle the climate crisis.

Blogs 

In late January, SACE released our second “Energy Efficiency in the Southeast Report.” The report shows that Southeastern states and utilities continue to rely on expensive, outdated, carbon polluting fossil fuel power plants while underinvesting in abundant low-cost efficiency resources. Duke Energy operating in the Carolinas was again the clear regional leader, delivering over half of all efficiency savings for the Southeast. Read the first two posts in the report’s mini-series here. 

On March 3rd, the SolarTogether program was unanimously approved by Florida’s Public Service Commission. Its approval will bring nearly 1.5 gigawatts (GW) of solar along with $1.8 billion of investment and an estimated 4,000 solar jobs to Florida over the next two years. As of March 17, 2020, FPL customers are able to begin signing up for the program. The utility has general information posted on the SolarTogether website.

For years we’ve been blogging about the advantages of electrifying transportation – including cost and time savings as well as public and environmental health benefits. We recently concluded a 4 part blog series Demystifying EV Charging written by SACE volunteer and retired automotive engineer, Dave Erb. We recommend you give it a read whether you’re a recent electric vehicle buyer, thinking about shifting to an electric vehicle, or are curious and have some questions.

Webinars

For more than 10 years, The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has hosted dozens of free webinars for our members, supporters, and allies on a wide range of topics from energy efficiency and solar energy to federal policy and local initiatives. Last summer, SACE and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) discussed a new report in the webinar:  Killer Heat in the United States: Climate Choices and the Future of Dangerously Hot Days. The report and the webinar detail how if we act now to drastically cut heat-trapping emissions, we will reduce the frequency of future extreme heat days and spare millions of people from the threat of relentless summer heat.

Last summer, SACE hosted the webinar, How Climate Change is Impacting Hurricanes, during the first week of hurricane season and expert scientists discussed how climate change impacts hurricanes. We were joined by NASA Senior Scientist Dr. Tim Hall and Woods Hole Research Center Senior Scientist Dr. Jennifer Francis who talked on how climate change affects hurricane intensity, precipitation patterns, and storm surge and coastal flooding.

Although almost four years old, our webinar Global Warming & Sizzling Summers in the Southeast remains timely as the seasons shift again towards warmer temperatures. This August 2016 webinar was co-hosted with Climate Central as part of their “States at Risk Project” which analyzed historic and projected summer climate data around the nation. Researchers found that global warming has already significantly increased the number of scorching Danger Days, especially in Florida, with many more yet to come.

Actions

Complete the 2020 Census online! This month, all households received directions on how to complete the census online, saving time and money for government officials during this challenging and unprecedented time. Every 10 years, a national census is what helps determine how seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are allocated and how federal funds and services are distributed to state and local governments across the country, including crucial assistance programs such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Accurate population counts are essential because funds are determined according to each state’s population.

Memphis is currently at a crossroads on whether or not their local utility, Memphis Light Gas, and Water (MLGW), will break free from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and seek power elsewhere. To make sure elected officials make the best decision for Memphians, sign our petition and send a message to the Memphis city council and MLGW board. Let’s show that Memphians Have The Power and need a voice when it comes to decisions about where we will be receiving power from the long-term. 

For some years, the current administration has proposed offshore oil and gas drilling along the coasts of the entire Atlantic, Straits of Florida, and Gulf of Mexico, which would significantly harm our coastal economy and quality of life. If you haven’t yet shown your support, send an email to your elected officials, encouraging them to oppose risky seismic blasting and offshore drilling. With one click, your message will be sent to your governor, members of Congress, and state legislators.

Moving Forward

Unquestionably there are uncertain times ahead, but rest assured that SACE will continue to track, engage in, and fight for smart energy choices that change the way we produce and consume energy here in the Southeast. We welcome your support in the months ahead. 

Kate Tracy
Based in the Knoxville, Tennessee office, Kate curates the SACE and voice in digital and traditional media outlets. She also tracks media analytics, develops creative content, manages the SACE’s websites…
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