Uses nonviolent, direct action to demand that PECO, Pennsylvania’s largest utility company, make a major shift to locally generated solar power that benefits low income communities and communities of color. Our campaign brings together EQAT and POWER, a broad multi-faith network of 60 congregations, to address three critical issues: underemployment, crumbling infrastructure, and climate change.
Our campaign calls on PECO to spur local jobs and support the regional economy by purchasing solar energy in its service area. Doing this will create thousands of good paying jobs for local workers, lower electricity bills for families, schools and churches, and will turn PECO away from fueling devastating climate change.
To be part of the solution, PECO must choose to:
- Dramatically increase the purchase of local rooftop solar power so that 20% of PECO’s electricity comes from roofs in its service area by 2025.
- Spur solar installation on suitable roofs in high unemployment areas, starting in North Philadelphia, to economically benefit those communities.
- Prioritize installation by local workers, especially from high unemployment areas.
In 2015, after forcing PNC Bank to stop financing dirty mountaintop removal coal mining, EQAT turned our attention to the fact that Pennsylvania was lagging massively behind neighboring states in solar jobs. We also knew that PECO’s electricity is fueling rapid climate change which will be especially harmful to marginalized communities. So we launched a solutions-oriented economic justice campaign, which we called “Power Local Green Jobs.”
What if PECO became a solar-jobs creator? What if those jobs were developed in communities of color and areas of deep unemployment? In our research, we learned that local solar energy could provide well over 20% of our region’s needs, and that getting there could create thousands of new jobs. Seeing that PECO had been blocking and delaying solar for years, our new campaign became clear: get PECO to commit to 20% local solar by 2025, built first in the neighborhoods with greatest need.
EQAT began monthly actions at the company headquarters in September 2015, and we were soon joined by POWER, then later Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and the campaign began spreading across the region.
PECO’s region has both opportunity- some of the best counties for solar in the state- and need. Our area includes large and deeply neglected African American neighborhoods, disinvested former industrial zones, a growing immigrant workforce, and working class neighborhoods of all races. With local solar, workers can earn good wages and communities can produce and sell their own power. We all will see improvements in public health and guard against the looming devastation of climate change.
We had our first breakthrough in April of 2016.
To meet the minimum of state law, PECO only gets a fraction of 1% of its energy from solar — and much of that from out of state. When we first met with PECO executives, the company insisted that increasing local solar was impossible. So after months of demonstrations, we issued an ultimatum: Purchase that fraction of a percent from North Philly by May 2016, or face escalated nonviolent direct action.
PECO responded by reversing its initial stance, and finally began listening to advocates and solar industry groups to figure out how to buy locally the small amount of solar it does buy. We’re glad PECO is getting its toes wet, but we’re calling for a clear commitment that will allow PECO to cope with the rapid changes in energy which need to happen in the next decade.
The campaign has only grown since then, with actions over the summer of 2016 in Chester, Upper Darby, Doylestown, and Philadelphia. In October of 2016, 100 runners, walkers, and wheelers circled the company headquarters at the “PECO Runaround” (because PECO is giving Philadelphia the runaround on solar). The event raised $10,000 to Power Local Green Jobs.
However, to reach 20% by 2025, we know PECO needs to think bigger. So last spring, we embarked on a 100 mile Walk for Green Jobs and Justice to chart the way from old energy sites to new. Along the way, EQAT and POWER were joined by 200 people from across the region, and for the final mile to PECO headquarters, another 200 showed up in the pouring rain to show PECO the path to a solar future.