Georgia Conservation Voters Education Fund and Clean Energy Access

The Georgia Conservation Voters Education Fund, a recipient of the inaugural Drawdown Georgia Climate Solutions & Equity grants, is focused on promoting equitable access to clean energy in our state. 

Scaling climate solutions around electricity production--like rooftop and large-scale solar, demand response programs, and capturing methane from landfills--is an essential component of Drawdown Georgia’s roadmap to achieving climate goals in our state. 

How the Georgia Conservation Voters Education Fund is Growing Clean, Equitable Energy for All

Drawdown Georgia spoke recently with Brionté McCorkle, executive director of the Georgia Conservation Voters Education Fund, about the organization’s work to reduce carbon emissions and energy bills by empowering member-owners in electric membership cooperatives.

Tell us about the Georgia Conservation Voters Education Fund's work in the community.

All Georgians should have equitable access to clean air, clean water, and healthy foods and live in a world free from environmental harm. We envision a future where Georgians are informed and empowered to advocate for climate and environmental justice effectively. 

GCV EMC meeting 1 for blog

Our mission is to organize and mobilize Georgians to advance climate and environmental justice through education, advocacy, and other forms of civic engagement.

Although the urgency of the climate crisis is undeniable, the state's energy landscape remains dominated by powerful utility companies. For this reason, the Georgia Conservation Voters Education Fund works to advance energy justice and drive real change where it matters most.

How is GCVEF Driving Real Change Where It Matters Most?

GVCEF is deeply committed to grassroots organizing, education, and leadership development to promote action on climate change and address its disproportionate impact on frontline communities. 

Eventually, we will expand beyond Clean Energy to the other areas named in the Drawdown Georgia plan. Right now, our work occurs within the following programs:

  • Clean Energy for All - Advancing clean, affordable, and reliable energy for everyone in Georgia.

  • Democracy for All - Protecting access to the polls and ensuring voters are informed and regularly turn out to vote their full ballot.

  • Environmental Justice - Supporting frontline communities to develop compelling content, advocacy strategies, and tactics highlighting environmental injustices and telling the stories of those fighting back.

What is the Clean Energy for All Program?

Our Clean Energy for All program is our most significant. It houses three campaigns and initiatives: 

  • State-to-Federal Climate Initiative - Building a climate and justice-centered movement to hold leaders accountable for how federal funds are spent in Georgia. We are reshaping our coalition around a set of transformative campaigns that will allow organizations in Georgia to be more active and collaborative in ensuring that Georgia gets its share of federal program investments and that funds are used to maximize climate and community impact.

  • PSC Accountability / "Don't Raise My Bill" Campaign - Every year, multiple times a year, the Georgia Public Service Commission engages in proceedings determining the amount of investment in clean energy and energy efficiency programming from our state’s largest utility, Georgia Power. These proceedings also determine energy rates and, ultimately, the cost of power bills for residential Georgia Power customers. 

    Recently, the Plant Vogtle cost overrun hearings, along with previously approved rate increases and added charges, will result in customers paying hundreds of dollars more each year on their bills. While this is characterized as a $9 per month on average increase, the total price tag to Georgia Power customers for Plant Vogtle will be over $7.56 billion. This is a massive opportunity cost; for that amount, millions of homes could have rooftop solar, community solar arrays could have been built, demand response and weatherization programs could have been expanded, and more. These bill increases devastate hard-working Georgians living on fixed incomes amid record-breaking heat and powerful storms. 

    In particular, Black and brown communities are so adversely affected by the slightest increase in energy costs that they are forced to choose between food, medicine, and electric bills.  Compared to white households, Black households spend 43% more of their income on energy costs, Hispanic households spend 20% more, and Native American households spend 45% more (ACEEE). We work to ensure these increases do not go under the radar and that people are informed and involved in providing public comment.

  • Democratizing EMCs Campaign - Our EMC Organizing campaign is a project dedicated to advancing sustainability and driving a transition to clean energy production among Georgia’s 41 member-owned electric membership cooperatives (EMCs).  We engage in community organizing efforts within rural electric cooperatives (EMCs), focusing on member engagement, leadership development, and community consultation. 

     

    GCV EMC meeting 2 for blog

    GCVEF supports member-owners pursuing EMC board seats, conducts canvassing, hosts community events, and develops tools like the EMC scorecard to educate and empower member-owners. Our initiatives aim to drive a just transition to clean energy, enhance accountability, and promote diversity in EMC leadership.

Why is voter education so important around climate solutions in Georgia?

Voter education is the key to a climate-resilient Georgia. The intricacies of energy policies and their effects on our environment need to be in the spotlight. GCVEF steps in to arm Georgians with the knowledge to challenge these practices, demand transparency, and cast informed votes that resonate far beyond the ballot box.

Voter Access and Education in Georgia Communities

In pursuit of our mission, GCVEF focuses on educating, organizing, and mobilizing a base of community members that match the demographics of Georgia, which requires an ongoing, intensive effort to engage people younger than 40 years old, people of color, and women.

This diverse constituency faces the most significant threat from existing environmental pollution and the impacts of a changing climate. This group is also most affected by attempts to limit or suppress voter turnout and is the least likely to report regular voting or civic participation. 

We must engage and mobilize this audience to build a broader and more powerful movement for equitable climate action in Georgia.

The Impacts of Climate-Focused Voter Education in Georgia

Voter education around climate solutions in Georgia ensures that residents understand the impact of policies and decisions on their communities, health, and future. In Georgia, where energy regulations and utility practices significantly influence environmental outcomes, informed citizens and power customers can hold elected officials and utility companies accountable. 
By educating Georgians about clean energy, climate policies, and the importance of sustainable practices, organizations like GCVEF empower individuals to demand transparency and advocate for effective and equitable climate solutions. 

What climate solutions does the Education Fund focus on and why?

GCV Education Fund focuses on climate solutions addressing environmental and social justice issues. We aim to advance climate and environmental justice policies that align with the Drawdown Georgia framework. This roadmap of climate solutions is the closest thing the state of Georgia has to a statewide climate action plan. 

Learnings from Drawdown Georgia’s Climate Roadmap

Drawdown Georgia shines a light on the best opportunities for reducing carbon emissions in Georgia. It prioritizes equity and climate justice considerations as these climate solutions are scaled in our state. 

Screenshot 2023-05-17 094755

According to Drawdown Georgia, the electricity sector offers the most significant opportunities for reducing carbon emissions in our state, followed by other areas, including transportation, buildings &  materials, food & agriculture, and land sinks.  

Goals of the Clean Energy for All Program

By advocating for these solutions, we aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower energy bills for marginalized communities, and create local jobs. This approach aligns with our commitment to combat racial and economic disparities, acknowledging that vulnerable populations bear the brunt of environmental harm. 

Our approach resonates with the frustrations of climate-conscious Georgians. By harnessing the power of grassroots organizing, we're breaking through barriers in the utility landscape in Georgia, especially in areas often overlooked and underserved. GCVEF's Clean Energy for All program tackles climate solutions head-on by prioritizing energy efficiency, rooftop solar, and equitable access. This approach cuts emissions and alleviates the burdens disproportionately borne by marginalized communities.

Congratulations on receiving one of the inaugural Drawdown Georgia Climate Solutions & Equity grants. Tell us about the project this grant will fund.

Picture this: EMCs transforming into hubs of clean energy innovation, putting the well-being of people and the planet first. 

That's the vision our EMC Organizing Campaign breathes life into. Armed with a potent mix of member engagement, leadership development, and community consultation, GCVEF is paving the way for a just transition to clean energy. Our EMC scorecard holds EMCs accountable, our workshops ignite dialogue, and our support for board candidates ushers in fresh perspectives.

The grant awarded to GCVEF supports our EMC Organizing Campaign, which aims to drive a transition to clean energy by engaging member-owners in community workshops, leadership development, and creating an EMC scorecard to assess and advocate for sustainable practices. 
By educating EMC member-owners about energy efficiency, rooftop solar, and federal funding opportunities, GCVEF intends to amplify community voices, diversify EMC leadership, and accelerate Georgia's progress toward renewable energy.

Why focus on educating EMC member-owners about energy efficiency and rooftop solar to scale climate solutions in Georgia?

For decades, we have been bombarded with a public narrative that clean energy will cause bills to rise. But in practice, we’ve seen bills rising due to continued investments in fossil fuels and dirty energy infrastructure by Georgia utilities.

While advocates have spent years focusing on Georgia Power, EMCs must also be more organized. EMCs serve approximately 4.4 million of Georgia’s 10 million residents and 73 percent of the state’s land area and can make investments in clean energy, energy efficiency, and weatherization that benefit millions in Georgia. Educating EMC member-owners about energy efficiency and community and rooftop solar is a strategic approach to scaling climate solutions in Georgia. 

GCV EMC meeting for blog

We seek to create grassroots demand for sustainable practices within these cooperatives by empowering member-owners with knowledge about clean energy options. This approach can influence decision-making, encourage EMCs to leverage federal funding to invest in clean energy generation and amplify the impact of climate solutions across Georgia. 

Educating and mobilizing communities creates a grassroots movement that speaks truth to power. The GCVEF approach curtails emissions and amplifies voices, breaking the stranglehold of utility companies and steering Georgia towards a sustainable, equitable future.

How can people follow your work and participate in your projects?

To follow the work of GCVEF and get involved in our projects, interested individuals can visit our website at www.gcvedfund.org/learn to view our blog, explore our podcast, and find upcoming events to attend. 

We invite everyone to visit www.gcvedfund.org/action to find easy ways to take action to help advocate for a more just and sustainable Georgia. Please consider participating in community events, workshops, and campaigns organized by our team. 

Additionally, staying informed about our initiatives on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and our newsletter can help you find many more opportunities to plug in. We also welcome individual support and contributions to the organization's efforts. Consider becoming a monthly donor today!

Stay Up to Date on the Progress of Climate Solutions & Equity Grant Projects

Don’t miss out on future blog posts sharing updates from all of the 2022 Drawdown Georgia Climate Solutions & Equity grant recipients. 

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