We’d like to tell you a story – the story of the Climate + Energy Project. This may seem like a strange topic to lead our monthly newsletter with, but trust us; it will make sense by the end.
Unless you’re a new friend or partner of CEP, most of you are aware of how our non-profit got started. Our founder, Nancy Jackson was having a "dialogue” with her father-in-law, Wes Jackson (founder of The Land Institute
) about a proposed coal plant under consideration in Western Kansas. Supporters of the plant badly needed jobs and wanted new transmission lines to carry wind energy. Opponents of the plant feared the impact of millions of tons of carbon dioxide and water use. A deep divide ensued.
Nancy created CEP to bridge the divide and start a new conversation about our energy choices. We set out to show how Kansas could benefit from clean, renewable energy by focusing on jobs and the economic potential wind power could bring to Kansas.
Although we believe global warming is the defining challenge of our generation, CEP consciously decided to sequester the climate conversation. We focused instead on finding common ground with people across the state.
To figure out what exactly Kansans thought about energy, we conducted a series of focus groups.
DISCOVERING SHARED VALUES
Many of the focus group results were not surprising. Positions on climate change mostly lined up with political party affiliations, which also lined up with favored news sources.
As we probed further, we discovered that many of the self-proclaimed climate skeptics were driving hybrids and had switched all of their inefficient light bulbs to CFLS. Heartland conservatives (and liberals alike) worried about energy security and liked the idea of developing homegrown energy. Patriotism and pride produced a desire to lead the world in fuel-efficient homes and vehicles and taking care of the earth was a core Christian value shared by many. Thrift was an abiding principle everyone of the focus group shared.
With a good idea of our shared common beliefs, CEP set out to deepen the conversation about our energy future.
Second only to Texas, the economic benefits of Kansas wind was a well-kept secret with just over 365 MW of installed wind in 2007. To raise the profile of the economic benefits wind energy could bring, CEP highlighted wind energy benefits by sharing fact-based information from reliable resources. With several partners, we created an extensive supply chain survey to determine the readiness of Kansas companies to join the wind energy supply chain. We took every opportunity to talk to Kansans about the economic benefits wind energy would bring.
Additionally, we supported renewable energy policy at the state and federal level with postcard campaigns, testimony and earned media. Polling in 2009 showed overwhelming support for wind energy in Kansas.
The wind industry flourished, installing more wind energy than any other state in 2012, but despite overwhelming public and regulatory support, CEP and our partners spent the 2013 Kansas legislative session successfully defending the Renewable Portfolio Standard from attacks. We attribute this success to the diverse relationships we have built based on support of renewable energy.
Energy efficiency appeals to a core value of many Midwesterners; an aversion to wastefulness. For every dollar we spend on efficiency, two or three would have been spent on generating, transmitting and distributing electricity.
In 2009, we created the Take Charge Challenge to engage citizens in conversations about energy efficiency. We wanted to change the perception of efficiency from sacrifice to "we win”. The six-city pilot achieved astonishing results.
The pilot challenge proved Kansans could be motivated to make wise energy decisions, regardless of their politics. The energy savings, civic engagement and media attention encouraged us to partner with the Energy Division of the Kansas Corporation Commission for a second round, and in 2011 sixteen cities in four regions competed for $400,000 in energy upgrades.
Governor Brownback kicked off the challenge at his residence, amidst leadership teams made up of mayors, business and community leaders. The challenge revealed how valuable competition is to encourage energy conversation and action.
As businesses are faced with rising energy costs, energy efficiency upgrades and utility sponsored programs are one way to impact their triple bottom line. Our new commercial Take Charge Challenge utilizes the results model focusing on energy education, strategy, culture and implementation to encourage businesses to consider efficiency in a new light.
CHANGING TRANSMISSION NEEDS
Our energy infrastructure is aging and over the next twenty years, we will spend billions of dollars redesigning transmission and bolstering generation. The Heartland Alliance for Regional Transmission (HART), formed by CEP, works to engage rural energy consumers and their representatives – mayors, county commissioners, chambers, landowners and others in conversations about what the new system will look like.
OUR NEWEST PROJECT
Today rising energy costs and pressing water worries combine to bring water, energy and agriculture organizations together around positive actions that everyone can applaud. Our newest project, Water + Energy Progress, brings together a diverse steering committee who collaboratively identified what constitutes an innovative practice and then nominated nine exemplary Kansas farmers. These farmers are leading the way in water and energy usage and we want to recognize them for their leadership and innovation while also sharing their positive examples that we believe will spur additional innovation.
A NEW CHAPTER
CEP began as a short-term project of The Land Institute. As we start a new chapter, our mission remains the same, but with an added focus to catalyze a transformational shift in the way people in the Heartland understand and talk about energy.
To that end, we will work to deepen the partnerships we have created across a broad and diverse network, we will continue to grow robust programs to engage grassroots supporters while developing and supporting sound energy policy at the state and federal level.