Jacksonville Senator Aims To Connect Communities Of Color With Clean Energy

Jan 6, 2016

 

Gibson jots down ideas and concerns at her clean-energy meeting in Jacksonville Wednesday, Jan. 6.
Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News

Sen. Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville) wants to educate her constituents about clean energy.

Gibson hosted faith and community leaders at her local office Wednesday. They talked about how to get people to understand how energy efficiency benefits them.

 


Gibson says a national transition to clean energy is important. But she sees a disconnect in her hometown.

“In communities of color, sometimes the information seems to lag behind,” she says.

She says clean energy means less pollution, safer communities and utility bill savings. But it can be tough to get people to make the initial investment in home upgrades, whether they're landlords or tenants.

“There are a lot of renter-occupied structures. And a renter has absolutely no incentive to invest in energy efficiency,” says Berdell Knowles with the Florida chapter of the American Association of Blacks and Energy.

Knowles says landlords need more of an incentive too. JEA gives customers rebates for making homes more energy efficient. But unless the property owner is also paying the utility bill, the investment may not make sense to him.

Gibson’s meeting was co-hosted by the political action committee NextGen Climate. It’s a group that tries to make climate change an issue in elections, including the last Florida governor's race.

But Wednesday’s discussion stayed focused on helping people make small changes in their everyday lives. Gibson, Rep. Mia Jones (D-Jacksonville) and the assembled community leaders talked about identifying free energy-audit services to help low-income residents and finding ways to financially aid people making efficiency upgrades.

“I feel like they’re more equipped to be able to ask the questions, to write the letters, to make the calls to express their concerns or frustrations or appreciation,” Gibson said after the meeting. She says she’ll follow up with attendees and encourage them to engage the community.

Gibson, who sits on the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee, says she’ll also incorporate ideas from the meeting as she thinks about policy this session.