CEJA envisions a fundamentally new energy system — one that is just, democratic, equitable, and composed of genuinely clean energy. We envision a California that leads the nation in local renewable energy, in which our rooftops are blanketed with solar, where our children can finally breathe clean air, where dirty power plants and oil refineries are shut down, where low-income people of color receive good-paying local clean energy jobs, and we have an energy system based on conservation and not endless consumption.
CEJA is building democratic, equitable energy solutions that do not reproduce ecologically and socially harmful energy and social systems, starting with the communities who have borne the burden of pollution for decades. We are working towards a world without fossil fuels. We are working to reduce this country’s addiction to energy, to end over-consumption and to dramatically reduce the enormous amount of waste from dirty energy.
The energy future of California that we are trying to create is focused on building access among all communities to their own, locally-produced clean energy. This type of decentralized energy is highly efficient, puts energy production in the hands of local residents, and can generate green jobs in these same communities. We want to blanket the state’s population centers with solar and other forms of renewable energy. We want “microgrids” in EJ communities where there are community-centered networks of linked energy resources using efficiency, demand response, solar photovoltaics, combined heat and power, fuel cells and storage so that our communities have a secure, reliable and resilient energy system.
In our vision, corporate power will decline and community power will increase. Big polluting industry will be replaced by a truly green, locally-based and sustainable economy, long expensive transmission lines will no longer be necessary, and communities can enjoy producing and coordinating their own local power. We want to flip the script on energy policy-making – where community members drive decisions at the statewide level rather than the utilities and large energy developers, so we build energy infrastructure in the best interest of human health, the economy and the environment.
CEJA is building a statewide movement that ensures low-income communities and communities of color get good green jobs and clean energy, and to protect all Californians from climate change and the poor air quality that comes from burning fossil fuels.
Why is local, decentralized clean energy important to environmental justice communities?
Communities of color, especially communities with low income, have traditionally suffered the most from California’s fossil fuel energy system. These communities are historically left out of the decision- making process, and often end up with dirty power plants and other dirty energy projects that poison our air and harm the health of our children and families. Our communities have also benefited the least from the growing clean energy infrastructure, even though our taxes and energy costs help to pay for that system.
Global warming is the primary threat to the future of the planet and the future of the human race. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions remain at dangerously high levels in the US and throughout the world, with California the 7th largest GHG emitter in the world. Much of California’s fossil fuel infrastructure is sited in or near low-income communities, releasing dangerous levels of toxic pollutants, including GHG emissions. These toxins are a major contributor to significant health problems in our communities.
In the past two years, CEJA has made significant inroads to change the severe inequity in energy policy-making so that communities make decisions on energy policy that directly impacts them, rather than decisions being controlled by large utilities and policy-makers detached from communities. However, there is much work to be done and communities that are hit hardest by dirty energy are still systematically left out of energy decision-making, rather than being at the forefront.
What have we accomplished?
- In 2012, we ran a ground-breaking “Solar for All” campaign (AB 1990, authored by Assemblymember Paul Fong). The bill made it all the way through the Assembly and through several difficult Senate committees before being killed by an all-out attack from the large utilities. It would have created a small-scale clean energy projects in low-income communities and communities of color. However, the campaign galvanized the movement to demand small-scale renewables in environmental justice communities, built CEJA’s profile, won policy champions on our issues, and mobilized hundreds of community members, community-based organizations, environmental groups, solar producers, and progressive business groups to support our efforts.
- We secured critical language in the Renewable Portfolio Standard of 2011 and at the California Energy Commission that ensures a focus on environmental justice communities as California moves forward with renewable energy development.