The Community Solutions Workgroup seeks to lift people up while bringing fossil fuel use down. We work to reduce carbon pollution with actions that build community power and resilience. This combined thrust addresses two of today’s greatest challenges, climate disruption and the increasing wealth-and-power divide in society.
They are related. A political system hobbled by the power of special interests, especially fossil fuel companies, has not adequately responded to accelerating climate disruption. To address the climate crisis, we need to build people power. And we can begin to do that here where we live.
We are focusing on several areas right now.
Renewable energy costs are dramatically declining and becoming competitive with fossil fuels. And unlike fossil fuels (concentrated in limited areas), sun and wind are widely available. These realities open the way for energy democracy that broadly distributes ownership and benefits. In Seattle the most practical option is solar. Community solar creates extensive ownership opportunities.
Rooftop solar serving one home or business is not for everyone. Renters cannot put solar on someone else’s roof. Many people are challenged to finance the upfront cost. Many buildings do not have good solar access. Community solar overcomes those challenges. Arrays are typically situated on public and community buildings, and are large enough to serve a number of homes and businesses. People can buy shares for a modest amount, often around $100-$150, and receive credits on their bills for solar production as long as they live in the utility service area. Seattle City Light operates five community solar installations. We are exploring ways to bring more community solar to Seattle.
Because reducing energy use is also vital, we also support improved energy efficiency measures, especially those that aim to reduce costs for low-to-moderate income people. We seek opportunities to bring people power to bear for improved energy efficiency policies
In our state, the largest source of carbon pollution is vehicles. It is important to electrify transportation, and we support measures to make electric vehicle charging more accessible. We also support electrification of transit. But merely replicating our current transportation mix is not good enough. We must make public transportation options more accessible to people. We work to improve service and reduce costs for people, and with allies are exploring ways to bring free public transit to the Seattle area.
One of the greatest climate justice needs we face in Seattle is for affordable housing to stem the displacement of low-to-moderate income people from the city to suburban areas. Displacement pushes people who use transit the most into areas most poorly served, presenting them with the choice between driving and spending hours each day commuting. Puget Sound SAGE and Got Green, in their community climate research effort, Our People, Our Planet, Our Power, have identified the solution as more community-controlled housing that operates in the nonprofit mode. We look to support efforts by these groups to increase affordable, community-owned housing in Seattle.