WASHINGTON — Green jobs advocates frustrated with the apathy of Philadelphia’s utility PECO are taking their complaints to the big bosses. Their latest action brought them to D.C. to demand local solar electricity outside the shareholder meeting of utility giant Exelon. Exelon owns both PECO and D.C. area utility Pepco.
“When you dig into the numbers, what’s so sinister about Exelon’s business model is that it extracts profit from cash-strapped urban communities without building the green grid and jobs those cities need to flourish,” said Lina Blount, a volunteer with Philadelphia-based Earth Quaker Action Team.
Cities around the country have identified green energy and efficiency as key to creating more local jobs and bringing cheaper energy to ratepayers. However, utilities accustomed to earning profits on big capital projects have resisted furiously, forcing legal moves like D.C.’s recently proposed Distributed Energy Resources Authority. If established, the authority would require Pepco to solicit cheaper and greener alternatives like local solar and energy efficiency measures.
In Philadelphia, the Power Local Green Jobs campaign has demanded the Exelon-owned utility PECO set ambitious targets for solar and jobs in low-income areas. In response, the utility has streamlined its notoriously slow solar connection process and given a grant for new solar jobs training. Yet PECO has not committed to policies or infrastructure that would support local solar job growth.
Frustrated by half-measures and lack of leadership, seven interfaith leaders were arrested preaching in the customer lobby this March. Later that week, 18 community members engaged in peaceful civil disobedience and were given citations. Now, the activists say continued evasions on PECO’s part has made them take their complaints to the top.
“We have learned that more than $1 million a day flows out of our region as profit to Exelon,” said Ryan Leitner, a campaign organizer. “Exelon owns six utilities in the Mid-Atlantic and Illinois. It could do so much to promote green energy and take care of the communities it serves, but instead it’s lining its pockets at the expense of millions of low-income ratepayers.”
Power Local Green Jobs is a faith-based economic justice campaign led by Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) and Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild (POWER). Begun in 2015, the campaign uses nonviolent direct action to pressure PECO, the largest utility in PA, to spur job growth through solar expansion in areas with high unemployment. Learn more at www.powerinterfaith.org and www.eqat.org.