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100% clean renewable energy for who?

By Ken Porter, Navy veteran 3rd Class Petty Officer

If you ask me about issues on the minds of the African-American community and veterans, renewable energy is going to be pretty far down the list. Near the bottom, actually.  Fortunately, it is an issue at the top of the city council’s list and they recently unanimously passed a resolution to move the city to 100% clean renewable energy. It’s also an issue on the mind of Dr. Danielle Kizaire, co-founder of Bronzeville Urban Development and member of the Ready for 100 coalition. Kizaire joined Cliff Kelley and myself on “We Serve the World: Millennial Veterans in Action” last Saturday to talk about how to move towards a 100% clean energy future in an equitable way that includes opportunity for all Chicagoans,  especially its veterans.

One of the first things that came to mind after learning the resolution that passed through the city council was the city’s deal with Divvy bikes. Divvy operates the blue bikes that power Chicago’s bike sharing program that you will be hard pressed to find west of the United Center and south of Guaranteed Rate field. Divvy bike docks only go as far south as 87th street, but the city stretches much further south than 87th street and residents who live that far south don’t get to realize the quality of life benefits of that renewable energy deal. The jump to 100% renewable energy represents a massive infrastructure undertaking and the question remains how do we involve the voices of marginalized communities in the rollout and how do we ensure those jobs go to people in need of work, especially veterans with transferable skills.

“When we talk about jobs for the veterans, it’s not just installing solar panels or putting solar panels together, you have a huge problem that we should all be aware of and that’s utilities being hacked. So cyber security is going to be a huge industry when you talk about protecting a utility system, and the military knows a few things about cyber. So the jobs will range from extremely skilled jobs to low skilled jobs, which means everyone should have a potential spot to fit into,” Kizaire said.

The jobs Kizaire mentioned are part of the green economy; a rapidly growing area of the economy with well paying jobs for generations to come. The Future Energy Jobs Act attempts to ensure marginalized groups have a future in that economy by awarding contracts to minority run job training providers that serve underserved populations on the south and west side, women and veterans.

“How do we bring equity not only to jobs, and helping people getting trained to do jobs, but how do we get equity in stabilizing the economy of the community,” Kizaire said.

Watching the economies of underserved communities over the next decade will be the litmus test to see whether the city implements the transition with equity in mind or if we have another Divvy bike deal on our hands.

Join Cliff Kelley and Porter on America’s Heroes Group Radio Talk Show “We Serve the World: Millennial Veterans in Action” on Saturday, May 18.


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