Energy democracy: taking back power

Energy democracy: Coal to wind

Executive summary

Electric utility (re)municipalization is gaining popularity as a strategy to shift away from a reliance on fossil fuel extraction in the context of combating climate change. Across the world—from Berlin to Boulder—communities have initiated campaigns to take back their power from investor-owned (private) utilities and create publicly owned and operated utilities. Moreover, such efforts are increasingly taking on the perspective and language of energy democracy.

Energy democracy seeks not only to solve climate change, but to also address entrenched systemic inequalities. It is a vision to restructure the energy future based on inclusive engagement, where genuine participation in democratic processes provides community control and renewable energy generates local, equitably distributed wealth (Angel, 2016; Giancatarino, 2013a; Yenneti & Day, 2015). By transitioning from a privately- to a publicly owned utility, proponents of energy democracy hope to democratize the decision-making process, eliminate the overriding goal of profit maximization, and quickly transition away from fossil fuels.

Utilities are traditionally profit-oriented corporations whose structures are based on a paradigm of extraction. Following the path of least resistance, they often burden communities who do not have the political or financial capital to object to the impacts of their fossil fuel infrastructure. Residents living within three miles of a coal plant, for instance, are more likely to earn a below-average annual income and be a person of color (Patterson et al., 2011); similar statistics have been recorded for natural gas infrastructure (Bienkowski, 2015).

These utilities are in a moment of existential crisis with the rise of renewables. From gas pipelines to coal power plants, their investments are turning into stranded assets, as political leaders and investors realize that eliminating fossil fuels from the energy mix is paramount to creating healthy communities and stemming climate change. MORE

Victory! Boston challenges corporate control of our food system

Boston Schools parent advocated for the Good Food Purchasing Policy at City Council.

Boston has taken a critical step forward to rebuild our broken food system and advance food justice across the city.

On March 20, the city became the first on the East Coast to adopt a city-wide Good Food Purchasing Policy (GFPP) — a groundbreaking policy that helps build an equitable, local, sustainable food system. The policy directs the city to purchase food that meets robust labor, health, and environmental standards. This includes Boston Public Schools (BPS), one of the largest purchasers of food in the city — meaning that 56,000 schoolchildren in Boston will have healthier, more nutritious food available to them at school each day.

It’s about more than simply good food, though. The majority of students served by BPS are students of color, who face disproportionately higher rates of diet-related disease, and are disproportionately targeted with marketing by fast food giants like McDonald’s. By investing in sustainable, local food, the policy shows how cities across the Northeast can advance a sustainable and equitable food system, and takes a crucial step forward for food justice and racial equity in the city. And as the first on the East Coast to pass GFPP city-wide, Boston has established a precedent for other cities to follow suit.

This move comes on the heels of another big victory in the movement challenging corporate abuse of our food. In early February, the second-largest teachers union in the country, the American Federation of Teachers, passed a resolution to reject all junk food fundraisers in schools, including McDonald’s McTeacher’s Nights.

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Green investing in marine activities is ‘pretty exciting’: Credit Suisse

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People navigate with the electric boat SunWave catamaran, on the Mediterranean sea during the Les Nauticales boat show, on March 26, 2019 in La Ciotat.  Boris Horvat | AFP | Getty Images

Green investing in marine-related activities such as sustainable fishing and ocean-based tourism is a “pretty exciting” opportunity, according to one Credit Suisse executive.

“It’s pretty exciting. If you calculate … the oceans in an economic term, it is the seventh-largest GDP in the world … It includes sustainable fisheries, it includes tourism that’s based on (the) ocean and it includes all of the other investments that go into seventh-largest. So, people aren’t really aware of that,” said Marisa Drew, CEO of the impact advisory and finance department at the investment bank.

Speaking to CNBC on Wednesday at the Credit Suisse Asian Investment Conference in Hong Kong, she added: “We’re seeing of course pollution issues, warming of the oceans … overfishing, and our clients and investors really deeply care about trying to resolve some of these issues. So they’re saying: ’How do I take this passion for the oceans and find an investible format?”

The World Bank defines that so-called “Blue Economy” as “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, and ocean ecosystem health.” Some examples include sustainable fisheries, maritime transport and better waste management.

Another “great investment theme” would be green technology, into which “an enormous amount of investment” is going into, according to Drew.

She cited China’s ambitions to become the world’s leader in green technology as well as Beijing declaring that the country was going to “ban petrol cars in a very defined period of time” in its move towards electric vehicles.

“If you think about that, it’s a market segment that gets created from zero to hundreds of billions in just a couple of years,” Drew said. MORE

EU lawmakers back ban on single-use plastics, set standard for world

 

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A simple walk on any beach, anywhere, and the plastic waste spectacle is present. Photo source: © SAF — Coastal Care 

STRASBOURG (Reuters) – Single-use plastic items such as straws, forks and knives as well as cotton buds will be banned in the European Union by 2021 following a vote by EU lawmakers on Wednesday as the bloc pushes manufacturers to step up their recycling efforts.

VIDEO: https://reut.tv/2HYK0vH

Growing concerns about plastic pollution in oceans and stories of dead whales with plastic in their stomachs, together with China’s decision to stop processing waste have prompted the EU to take more drastic steps to tackle the issue.

Marine litter has come under the spotlight because 85 percent of it is plastic.

The European Parliament voted by 560 to 35 in favor of banning 10 single-use plastics including plates, balloon sticks, food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene and all products made of oxo-degradable plastic. These are the 10 most found items on EU beaches.

EU countries can choose their own methods of reducing the use of other single-use plastics such as takeout containers and cups for beverages. They will also have to collect and recycle at least 90 percent of beverage bottles by 2029.
Tobacco companies will be required to cover the costs for public collection of cigarette stubs, which are the second most littered single-use plastic item.
“Europe is setting new and ambitious standards, paving the way for the rest of the world,” European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans said. The Commission had recommended the regulations approved on Wednesday by the bloc’s parliament. MORE

Help end food waste

You’re eating local, organic, even growing your own food. Make sure you don’t end up throwing out the fruits and vegetables of your hard-earned labour!

Besides being a waste of money, time and energy, unused food that ends up in landfills is one of the main sources of greenhouse gases.

  • Worldwide, food is discarded in processing, transport, supermarkets and kitchens.
  • Many fruits and vegetables don’t even make it onto store shelves because they’re not pretty enough for picky consumers.
  • About 20 per cent of Canada’s methane emissions (a potent greenhouse gas) come from landfills.
  • When people toss food, all the resources to grow, ship and produce it get chucked, too, including massive volumes of water.

Most food waste won’t happen if people take the time to plan better and sharpen food storage skills.

Download our handy tip sheet to help you out:

DOWNLOAD FIVE WAYS TO END FOOD WASTE

An excellent overview from CBC:   WASTED: THE STORY OF FOOD WASTE

In Germany, Consumers Embrace a Shift to Home Batteries

A growing number of homeowners in Germany are installing batteries to store solar power. As prices for energy storage systems drop, they are adopting a green vision: a solar panel on every roof, an EV in every garage, and a battery in every basement.

A photovoltaic system on a single-family house in Germany.
A photovoltaic system on a single-family house in Germany. ENERIX

Stefan Paris is a 55-year-old radiologist living in Berlin’s outer suburbs. He, his partner, and their three-year-old daughter share a snug, two-story house with a pool. The Parises, who are expecting a second child, are neither wealthy nor environmental firebrands. Yet the couple opted to spend $36,000 for a home solar system consisting of 26 solar panels, freshly installed on the roof this month, and a smart battery — about the size of a small refrigerator — parked in the cellar.

On sunny days, the photovoltaic panels supply all of the Paris household’s electricity needs and charge their hybrid car’s electric battery, too. Once these basics are covered, the rooftop-generated power feeds into the stationary battery until it’s full — primed for nighttime energy demand and cloudy days. Then, when the battery is topped off, the unit’s digital control system automatically redirects any excess energy into Berlin’s power grid, for which the Parises will be compensated by the local grid operator.

“They convinced me it would pay off in ten years,” explains Paris, referring to Enerix, a Bavaria-based retailer offering solar systems and installation services. “After that, most of our electricity won’t cost us anything.” The investment, he says, is a hedge against rising energy costs. Moreover, the unit’s smart software enables the Parises to monitor the production, consumption, and storage of electricity, as well as track in real time the feed-in of power to the grid. MORE

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tears into Republicans for painting Green New Deal as “elitist”


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigns in New York on June 26, 2018. Handout photo by Corey Torpie

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) on Tuesday delivered an impassioned defence of the Green New Deal, the ambitious Democratic proposal aimed at fighting climate change, after a Republican congressman attacked the resolution as an elitist plan he claimed had been created by out-of-touch “rich liberals from New York of California.”

“I think we should not focus on the rich, wealthy elites who will look at this and go ‘I love it, cause I’ve got big money in the bank. Everyone should do this!’” Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wisc.) said.

“It’s kind of like saying ‘I’ll sign onto the Green New Deal but I’ll take a private jet from DC to California—a private jet—or I’ll take my Uber SUV, I won’t take the train, or I’ll go to Davos and fly my private jet,’” he continued. “The hypocrisy!”

Ocasio-Cortez swiftly rejected the characterization. She also denounced the overall Republican strategy to portray climate change concerns as an issue of privilege.

“This is not an elitist issue, this is a quality of life issue,” Ocasio-Cortez responded, her voice rising in exasperation. “You want to tell people that their concern and their desire for clean air and clean water is elitist? Tell that to the kids in the south Bronx which are suffering from the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country. Tell that to the families in Flint.” MORE

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Facing Pushback, Markey Makes the Case for the Green New Deal

Leak detailing Supreme Court appointment rift only shows how little Trudeau’s camp respects the rule of law

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with members of the Manitoba Federation of Labour (MFL) in Winnipeg on March 26, 2019. JOHN WOODS/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The core question in the SNC-Lavalin affair is whether Justin Trudeau and his advisers respect the rule of law.

The answer appears to be that they have no respect for it at all, after an unnamed source, in an effort to smear former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould, fed reporters a story about a dispute over choosing a judge for the Supreme Court.

Even Liberals are furious over the leak to The Canadian Press and CTV, presumably from someone inside the Trudeau government.

“It is outrageous that there is a leak with respect to the Supreme Court judicial appointment process,” Toronto Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith told the House of Commons ethics committee on Tuesday. “People from all parties ought to condemn that kind of thing.”

In 2013, Mr. Harper openly criticized Beverley McLachlin….This is worse: a deliberate leak to the media about private discussions between an attorney-general and a prime minister over a judge under consideration for the Supreme Court, with the leak intended to debase the reputation of the former attorney-general. Anyone now under consideration for a judgeship will have reason to fear that their application, too, could be leaked. The legal community should be on its hind legs over this. MORE

RELATED:

Andrew Coyne: The latest tactic to suppress Wilson-Raybould — smear a judge

 

Ontario’s unbelievable ‘business case’ for nuclear refurbishment

Did you know: Ontario is moving forward with rebuilding 10 of our aging nuclear reactors at very high cost (16.5 cents/kWh) while Quebec is offering us renewable water power at less than one-third the cost (5 cents/kWh). Please sign the petition.

Residents around TMI exposed to far more radiation than officials claimed

Today is the 40th anniversary of the partial meltdown of reactor 2 at Three Mile Island  in Pennsylvania, USA. Despite the evidence in human blood, lived experience of the exposed, recognition of faulty monitors, and increases of cancers, the constant false narrative that TMI caused no harm remains.

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No Nukes News

The destruction of the Earth is a crime. It should be prosecuted

Businesses should be liable for the harm they do. Polly Higgins has launched a push to make ecocide an international crime

Illustration by Eva Bee

Why do we wait until someone has passed away before we honour them? I believe we should overcome our embarrassment, and say it while they are with us. In this spirit, I want to tell you about the world-changing work of Polly Higgins.

She is a barrister who has devoted her life to creating an international crime of ecocide. This means serious damage to, or destruction of, the natural world and the Earth’s systems. It would make the people who commission it – such as chief executives and government ministers – criminally liable for the harm they do to others, while creating a legal duty of care for life on Earth. 

It would force anyone contemplating large-scale vandalism to ask themselves, ‘Will I end up in the Hague for this?’

I believe it would change everything. It would radically shift the balance of power, forcing anyone contemplating large-scale vandalism to ask themselves: “Will I end up in the international criminal court for this?” It could make the difference between a habitable and an uninhabitable planet.

There are no effective safeguards preventing a few powerful people, companies or states from wreaking havoc for the sake of profit or power. Though their actions may lead to the death of millions, they know they can’t be touched. Their impunity, as they engage in potential mass murder, reveals a gaping hole in international law.

Last week, for instance, the research group InfluenceMap reported that the world’s five biggest publicly listed oil and gas companies, led by BP and Shell, are spending nearly $200m a year on lobbying to delay efforts to prevent climate breakdown. According to Greenpeace UK, BP has successfully pressed the Trump government to overturn laws passed by the Obama administration preventing companies from releasing methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. The result – the equivalent of another 50m tonnes of CO2 over the next five years – is to push us faster towards a hothouse Earth. MORE