New Jersey — Dozens of New Jersey residents joined a virtual town hall this week with legislators and activists to discuss clean energy initiatives for the state. Speakers at the event included Assemblymember Clinton Calabrese (LD-36), Assemblymember Daniel Benson (LD-14), and community solar installer Ricky Gass. A spokesperson for Senator Troy Singleton (LD-7) was also in attendance.
A prevalent topic of conversation was the Clean Energy Equity Act, which will help 250,000 low-income families reduce their electric bills, install 400 megawatts of storage by 2030 in low-income and environmental justice communities, and equip residents of these communities with workforce training for meaningful employment in the clean energy sector. Panelists and participants discussed the urgent need for energy justice for New Jersey’s overburdened communities — often communities of color — who are faced with needlessly high energy bills and are disproportionately harmed by polluting fossil fuels.
Gass also shared his personal experience participating in a workforce training program, which the Clean Energy Equity Act seeks to expand. The program allowed him to cultivate a meaningful career as a community solar installer. Through his work, Gass is able to develop practical skills, provide for his family, and help communities transition to clean energy.
Senator Singleton is the prime sponsor of the Clean Energy Equity Act in the State Senate, where it passed in November 2020. Assemblymembers Benson and Calabrese are sponsors in the General Assembly, where supporters are hopeful it will achieve expedient passage during the “lame duck” session this November.
“Clean energy is an issue that positively impacts our environment and our economy,” said Senator Troy Singleton. “All New Jerseyans – regardless of income – should have access to clean energy and its many benefits, which include utility savings and career opportunities.”
The event was coordinated by the NJ Shines coalition, a network of community-based, social justice, and environmental advocacy groups working toward a resilient and equitable clean energy future for New Jersey.
Members of the coalition and other event supporters commented:
“We’re grateful for the leadership of our climate champions in the legislature, including Assemblymembers Benson and Calabrese and Senator Singleton,” said Elena Weissmann, Mid-Atlantic Director at Vote Solar. “It was also incredibly encouraging to see so many New Jersey residents engaging in the legislative process and speaking up for a resilient and equitable clean energy future. It’s clear that New Jersey is ready for a thriving renewable energy workforce, cleaner air, and energy justice for underinvested communities. Passage of the Clean Energy Equity Act will be a major milestone on that journey, and we’re energized and ready to get it done.”
“Momentum is growing across the state for bold action on clean energy legislation that focuses the interests of low-income families, and frontline communities,” said Luis Nasvytis Torres, Senior Legislative Representative for Earthjustice. “New Jersey has an opportunity to lead the way on clean energy equity and communities are calling on the legislature to pass the Clean Energy Equity Act. This legislation would lower electricity bills, create jobs and training opportunities, and unlock the promise of clean energy through the deployment of solar and storage solutions in low-income and frontline communities.”
“In New Jersey low income and communities of color, have suffered the worst effects of systematic pollution and continue to fall short of reaping many of the benefits that come with the state’s growing renewable energy sector,” said Lee Clark, Environmental Justice Policy Manager, New Jersey LCV. “The Clean Energy Equity Act would help change this by providing much needed job training along with reduced electricity bills in environmental justice communities. We urge the Assembly to move this bill forward for passage immediately. In New Jersey your zip code shouldn’t determine if you live in a safe, healthy and affordable community.”
“Unitarian Universalist FaithAction NJ is a faith-based organization. One of our seven principles is justice, equity, and compassion in human relations,” said Nancy Griffeth with UU FaithAction NJ. “We believe that members of low-income communities in New Jersey have been exploited by requiring them to pay for the clean energy program through their utility bills, but they have not received the benefits of the program. This bill will provide a fund dedicated specifically to clean energy programs for low-income households, and so will show compassion and promote justice and equity.”
“As a community solar provider that’s working to bring clean energy and environmental justice to NJ’s most vulnerable communities, it was exciting to hear our legislators address this issue and their commitment towards a better, more equitable future,” said Gary Skulnik, CEO/Founder of Neighborhood Sun Benefit Corp.
“The Clean Energy Equity Act is designed to bring the financial benefits of investing in clean energy to the residents of overburdened communities who may not own a suitable roof on which to install solar but who disproportionately suffer the impacts of dirty energy generation,” said Eric Benson, Clean Water Action NJ Campaigns Director. “It would be another huge step forward for New Jersey’s clean energy goals, create jobs, and continue to position our state as a leader in environmental equity and justice. Thank you to our legislative leaders and community members who have made this a priority, and are pushing to get this passed this legislative session.”