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April 05, 2013

Clean Energy Fair Gets Southern California Community Pumped Up

Movement Academy Graduation

Riding on momentum from Los Angeles' huge announcement that it will be coal-free in 12 years, 150 clean-energy supporters, utility representatives, and entrepreneurs recently gathered for Huntington Park's first ever "Energy Fair" in Los Angeles County that aims to build community leadership on clean-energy issues.

Led by the Sierra Club and Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), the event focused on ways clean-energy leaders can reach residents and families and motivate communities to jump on the clean-energy trend, save on energy bills, and support energy that also benefits community health. Informing residents on local services available to them and ways to utilize all the benefits of local clean energy is a top priority.

Listening to panel

"Community members in Southeast Los Angeles have defeated two power plants in less than eight years," said CBE Community Organizer Robert Cabrales. "Put together by mostly community members, the Energy Fair sent a message to decision makers that Southeast L.A. residents want real solutions to energy production. Fossil fuel power plants are so last century, and we demand truly clean energy production."

The fair showcased a strong coalition of companies and organizations: the Sierra Club's L.A. Beyond Coal Campaign and CBE were joined the My Generation Campaign, California Environmental Justice Alliance, Mexican American Opportunity Foundation, Southeast Community Development Corporation, WIC, Grid Alternatives, Real Goods Solar, Southern California Edison, and more.

At the end of the Energy Fair, the My Generation Movement Academy held a graduation ceremony for 41 participants, who were each awarded a "Certificate of Achievement" for their commitment.

“The Energy Fair was a success,” said Michael Sarmiento, a Sierra Club clean-energy campaign organizer. “One of the best comments I got was from a representative from Real Good Solar, who told me this event was the first for him that really focused on reaching communities like Huntington Park, which is mostly a low-income community of color.”

Organizers collected nearly 40 petitions for a Clean Energy Bill of Rights (pdf) -- a demand for universal access to clean energy and the right to be paid for on-site solar generation -- which will eventually land on Governor Jerry Brown's desk.

A panel at the fair discussed the various obstacles that are still in the way of California’s quest to move beyond dirty fuels.

Energy Fair Panel

"We need to do more to educate people about the opportunities available, especially in low-income communities," said Sarmiento. "There is some pushback from utility companies to help develop local clean-energy projects, which is why we need to focus on communities to support clean energy and all the benefits it brings."

Over the last several years, California has made huge progress in expanding access to local clean energy. Last year, roughly two-thirds of all rooftop solar installations went up in middle class communities. Huntington Park’s Energy Fair was one important step toward ensuring low-income communities enjoy the same benefits of clean energy.


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