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  • The Numbers Don’t Add Up for Georgia Power’s Power Request

    Greenlink’s analysis shows that energy efficiency and demand response alone could avoid about 3,000 MW of system peak demand, roughly the entire amount of new capacity Georgia Power wants to procure. Atlanta, GA.- Today, Georgia energy regulators will vote on whether to grant an “emergency” request by the state’s largest utility for an additional hike in electricity generating capacity, citing extraordinary growth from industries such as data centers. If the request gets approved, it will put the state on an expensive energy path that locks in fossil fuels and potentially higher bills for the next 30 years. If that’s not troubling enough, it’s also completely unnecessary. “The numbers don’t add up,” says Greenlink Analytics CEO Matt Cox. “Georgia Power has proposed building and buying power plants based on the highest demand scenario they designed while skipping the crucial due diligence built into the regulatory process first requiring an examination of energy efficiency measures and other ways to reduce power use.” In October 2023, Georgia Power asked to add almost 3,400 MW (1,000 MW of fossil fuel power purchase agreements, 1000 MW of battery energy storage systems, and 1400 MW of new natural gas combustion turbines) to the system by the end of the decade. Just months earlier the company had finished its extensive three-year planning process that forecasted less than 400 MW for the same time period. The company says that the surge in energy demand is so pressing that skipping crucial steps in the regulatory process is worthwhile. Building more capacity, such as adding more power lines and more "steel in the ground,” is the best way Georgia Power creates profit for the shareholders of the for-profit utility. While that may be best for shareholders, that may not be the best for the residents of Georgia. The Public Service Commission is meant to buffer against these self interests since it regulates and approves the utility’s electricity rates and energy forecasts. At risk is the climate, higher bills, and environmental justice. Let’s allow the numbers to rise above the noise so we can hear what the data says. Over the last 5 years, Georgia Power’s electricity load has decreased by about 1%. The amount of power required when consumers use the most electricity (aka peak demand) has been fairly consistent, around 16,500 MW. The new request depends on a prediction of load growth of 6%, or 14 times the average growth experienced in the past decade. And the Southeast’s grid already has energy reserves, or excess capacity, of 40% built into the system - the recommended amount is 15%. “Building new fossil power plants is unjustifiable,” said Cox. “Our region has capacity for days, actually for decades.” The first problem with Georgia Power’s request is that it’s not complying with the rules. The Public Service Commission requires that Georgia Power examines energy efficiency and demand response options before developing new power plants. That’s because energy efficiency is frequently the lowest-cost option for meeting Georgia’s energy use compared to supplying more power. Georgia Power knows how to do this; in their most recent federal filings, Georgia Power’s efficiency programs had a portfolio cost of 1.1 cents/kWh. Another cost effective option is demand response, which helps residents by shifting energy usage from peak times to help balance out the system's load. Greenlink’s analysis shows that these options alone could avoid about 3,000 MW of system peak demand, roughly the entire amount of new capacity Georgia Power wants to procure. Second, someone has to foot the bill for building new electric capacity and it won’t be Georgia Power. Large commercial and industrial consumers, like those running data centers, typically negotiate their electricity rates with Georgia Power and have the right to shop around, while residents don’t. Ultimately, these companies pay rates significantly cheaper than Georgia residents while being the leading cause for the demand for electricity to go up. Some of these companies will likely end up paying about 5 cents/kWh while the average Georgia resident pays 15 cents/kWh. And that’s the price without any new rate hikes. What about when that load doesn’t materialize? Someone is stuck paying for the extra unnecessary capacity. Even while this case has been argued, several large manufacturers like Rivian have changed their development plans. Adjusted schedules and delays will further reduce the need for new supply. Over the last year alone, residents’ power bills increased about 10%, or by about $14 each month. As utility bills continue to climb, it has a strong likelihood to continue to disproportionately affect the residents already struggling with these costs. About 28% of Atlanta already has high energy burdens. Black households are more vulnerable to high energy burdens than other races. As energy burden increases, so do other interdependent challenges, such as housing affordability. “Georgia Power’s request is an equity issue as much as it’s a climate change one,” affirms Cox. Third, building any new capacity shackles the state to fossil fuels (making us fossil fools) to meet demand. The proposed plan involves: Building three oil-and gas-fired units at Plant Yates in Coweta County, Ga. Developing battery storage Buying power from a gas plant in Florida Buying power from a coal plant in Mississippi that was slated to shut down due to poor economic performance Instead of rapidly approving Georgia Power’s request, Greenlink Analytics would like to see the Public Service Commission enforce the existing due diligence built into the regulatory process and ask the utility to begin with energy efficiency and demand response, and hold them accountable to realizing its cost-effective potential, before locking in unnecessary and expensive fossil fuel options.

  • How Can Cities and Communities Collaborate for Greater Impact?

    “You cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it.” ~ Civil Rights and Labor Activist Grace Lee Boggs Making changes in climate and energy policy is a complex process requiring clear communication and coordination. The success of any  new policy  hinges on having communities be a part of every step in the development process on projects. This generates substantial benefits to all, in turn, increasing trust between policy makers and these communities. This fosters a positive feedback loop between cities and communities and helps spur even more climate action. Over 100 cities across the country have expressed to Greenlink that they need accurate data to help understand and assess the equity gaps and imbalances within their cities as a basis for informing climate and sustainability strategies. In addition to this data, cities are recognizing more that they need better collaboration between their staff and these communities to have stronger and more effective policies that rapidly reduce carbon emissions. Successful collaboration requires a bridge between the city government and community organizers. That’s the point of the Process Guide for City-Community Collaboration, aka the Process Guide. It encourages a different approach to policy making – one that flips the creation process from top down to bottom up - to ensure that the community plays a leadership role in decision making of implementation. The point is for policy to be designed together. “The Process Guide is a 43-page document with detailed infographics and insights to support cities and communities in making the best use of data created from the Greenlink Equity Map (GEM), or other sources, to start conversations for collaboration,” explains Samantha Houk, Community Project Manager. In 2021, two incredible partners of Greenlink – Minna Taloui, a racial equity expert with Upright Consulting, and Rosa Gonzalez, a collaborative governance maven and founder of Facilitating Power – spearheaded the development of the Process Guide. The guide is meant to be used in tandem with GEM since its data provides an objective foundation for city staff and communities to start having conversations. The Process Guide has been downloaded over 600 times, and has supported the creation of collaborative policy making across the country in small municipalities to large metro areas. “To achieve the vision of thriving urban centers with the capacity to survive and thrive through crises, city staff and impacted communities will need to work together in meaningful ways,” says the Process Guide. “We hope this GEM guide offers worthwhile examples of what that work can entail, and practices that support an acceleration of efforts to advance community-driven solutions to our toughest challenges.” Learn more by: Downloading the Process Guide for City-Community Collaboration Watching our Community of Practice on Workshopping Strategies for Community-City Collaboration

  • Maps That Mobilize Communities

    We often use maps to tell us what experiences communities may be facing and where the disparities within those experiences are happening. But what if maps can also guide the approach to a particular issue? The Greenlink Equity Map (GEM) is doing just that. GEM is an interactive and easy-to-use tool with over 40 indicators that illustrate the intersections of health, housing, and environmental inequities across the United States. Cities, states, and organizations across the country use the tool to help guide plans for reducing carbon emissions, upgrading the grid through energy efficiency and clean power sources, channeling funding towards disinvested communities, and advancing community-driven processes. Community-driven processes overturn the archaic, entrenched, and unjust power system whereby decisions that directly impact communities are made without their consideration or feedback. The process reinforces and perpetuates the cycle of historically silenced communities bearing the worst impacts (read: toxic pollution and underinvestment in infrastructure and critical services) of decisions and having the least ability to change them. The climate crisis won’t be solved if it continues. Instead, the solution requires a sea change in how we think about building policies that impact nature and strengthen communities. The process begins with identifying the communities in need of the most support. Greenlink is a partner to City of Atlanta’s program called WeatheRISE ATL, focusing on reducing electricity and gas bills for households in the city's most energy burdened communities. This program helps maintain affordable housing, decrease carbon emissions by improving energy efficiency directly in the homes of those in need, improve people’s health, and create jobs. Before the work could begin, Atlanta needed to understand where these households are located, why the bills are so high, and what other environmental or social burdens are coupled with energy burden. That’s where GEM comes in handy. Greenlink used GEM’s mapping capabilities to pinpoint the most energy burdened neighborhoods in the city. We found that these neighborhoods are predominantly Black, exist in south Atlanta, and that there’s a strong relationship between energy burden, high asthma rates, and mental health challenges. Facts alone aren’t enough. The data needs to be understood by the people it describes and then used to encourage change. Sustainable Georgia Future, a local community based organization and also a WeatheRISE ATL partner, is leading the community outreach, education, and enrollment components of the program. They are canvassing in the most energy burdened neighborhoods identified by Greenlink to recruit households for the weatherization and efficiency upgrades. It’s the process of taking data to the people that helps the community understand where things stand and mobilize and forge a better future.

  • Mapping the Cost of Transportation: Who Can Afford to Get from Point A to B?

    Transportation is a pricey household expense. The cost of public transport and buying, fueling, insuring, and maintaining a vehicle adds up quickly. So quickly in fact that the average American spends about 15% of their annual income on transportation, second only to the cost of housing. This plays out so that lower income households tend to pay a larger percent of their budget towards transportation than those in higher income brackets due to a combination of fewer transportation options, less flexible employment, and more isolated housing. These prohibitive expenses eat into a person’s ability to pay for other necessities in life, such as food and medical care, which further solidifies and exacerbates the economic divide and harms quality of life. The point being that reliable, affordable, and easily accessible transportation are essential components of good living and social equity. Or, as Peter Haas succinctly put it, "Transportation is a means to an end, not an end itself." He's the chief research scientist for the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), which helps communities use tools to tackle the issues they face to improve living standards and economic opportunities. Greenlink Analytics, in partnership with CNT, just launched a new mapping layer for the Greenlink Equity Map (GEM): Transportation Burden. This dataset measures the percent of a household’s income spent on public and private transportation. Understanding the relative weight of this cost can help city managers, mayors, and other legislators understand who and where people are most impacted and where to direct funds, including towards clean energy transit options like an electric streetcar. Not all communities are equally served when it comes to transportation choice. Take for example, San Francisco, CA, or Boston, Mass., vibrantly dense cities where residents can walk, cycle, rideshare, take public transit, order food delivery, telecommute, and finally, if need be, use a car.  In comparison, Birmingham, AL, or Nashville, TN, would be a very difficult place to live car free due to accessibility and sprawl. Combine that with a lower income and life starts to get very challenging. “Transportation costs are driven by two things,” said Haas. “The characteristics of a neighborhood and then those of a household.” That’s the kind of data CNT gathered from the American Community Survey 2019 to model transportation costs in maps, charts, and statistics for 917 metropolitan and micropolitan areas—covering 94% of the U.S. population down to neighborhood level. After multiple conversations about the best way to represent household-based transportation equity across the country, Greenlink acquired CNTs transportation burden data. The data was integrated into Greenlink’s database on the census tract level and loaded into GEM. “Bottom line was, we needed tools like GEM to help us understand where to focus our resources and attention, because we didn’t want to go to an area that wasn’t equity focused” says Karen Apple, EV program manager for the City of Phoenix Office of Sustainability. “These tools are available, they’re helpful, and they can help mayors and councils understand where our equity areas are.” Apple explains tjat Phoenix is a large, car-dependent city that likes to “build out not up.” Sixty percent of residents live in lower-income areas. So, when the City decided to launch an electric-mobility (read: electric cars, e-buses, and e-bikes) and equity project, it became essential to understand how people get where they want to go, where people are going, and what would help make travel better. For eight months the City listened to communities and used tools, like GEM, to help them understand where to focus their e-mobility equity sessions. "Our goal is to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality,” said Apple. “We understand that electric vehicles are just one solution to pollution.” Of course, this is just one specific city project within a huge realm of opportunities. Greenlink is thrilled to launch the transportation burden indicator and begin to understand what  differences the maps can make in supporting cleaner, more accessible, and affordable transportation for everyone. (Watch the full Community of Practice on Transportation Burden:

  • Local Governments Can Reduce Climate Pollution

    When the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) passed in 2022 it became the country’s largest investment in domestic energy production and manufacturing while maintaining a goal of reducing carbon emissions by about 40 percent by 2030. Over the next decade, a lump sum of $369 billion will wend its way from the Federal coffers into various energy security and climate change programs. One of these programs is the Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Pollution Reduction Grants (CPRG) that will allocate a total of $5 billion in grants to states, local governments, tribes, and territories to develop and implement ambitious plans for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other harmful pollutants. States, local governments, and other eligible recipients of an initial $250 million, disseminated in 2023, are using the money to research and develop plans for their specific communities that will result in reducing emissions and increasing equitable outcomes. The deadline of March 1st for these preliminary climate action plans, or PCAPs,  is fast approaching. The PCAPs are the basis for the program’s second phase where the communities will outline in very detailed plans, known as comprehensive climate action plans (CCAP), on how they would make use of the remaining $4.6 billion in funding set to be awarded from the CPRG. “The IRA lays out an opportunity for communities to seek funding to assist programs and policies the communities want that otherwise may not have existed,” said Michael Gilley, Greenlink’s program manager. “The people who are putting together these PCAPs and CCAPs are doing the heaviest lifting and need all the assistance they can in order to get the money their communities need.” The CPRG program is a huge opportunity for those on the receiving end to create inventories of their greenhouse gasses, figure out specific ways to get those numbers drastically down, ensure that the people benefiting from these reductions are equitable, and make sure they have the structure in place to turn that plan into action. That’s easier said than done. The local government officials responsible for piecing together these very complex plans and applications may lack the necessary resources and support needed for submitting  the CPRG grant applications  in a timely or accurate way. Which would put the local communities at risk for not receiving their piece of the $4.6 billion in federal funding. The Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN), a national nonprofit that connects sustainability experts from local governments to improve impact, pulled together a group of like minded organizations, including Greenlink Analytics, in order to provide support to those government officials putting together their CPRG applications. Together they are helping metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) across the country with various aspects of their plan development, data collection, grant writing, and more to improve chances for receiving grants from the CPRG program. Some of the details of the CPRG grant calls for specific plans related to reduction of GHG emissions and benefits analysis for low-income, disadvantaged communities. Greenlink is specifically helping these MSAs by providing some basic GHG inventory data, carbon intensity forecasts, clean energy job forecasts, access to Greenlink Equity Map (GEM), and additional correlational analysis. ”We want to help as many MSAs  as possible assemble high quality action plans, affording them the opportunity to be competitive for the implementation grants,” says Etan Gumerman, lead analyst for Greenlink. “Greenlink’s readily able to provide climate data which would otherwise require these organization to spend significant time and money ” By the conclusion of this project, Greenlink will have provided over 50 individual reports of GHG data, carbon intensity forecasts, workforce calculations, along with access to critical low-income, disadvantaged communities information for over 16 local governments across the country, including Birmingham-Hoover, AL., Lexington-Fayette, KY., PIMA county, AZ., San Francisco, CA., and over 120 associated counties. The following organizations are collaborating to provide this assistance: Greenlink Analytics USDN Collective Strategies Skog Rasmussen Elevate Energy Building Electrification Institute Southeast Sustainability Directors Network C40 Cities Climate Mayors

  • Greenlink’s Top 10 Stories of 2023

    Greenlink had a big year, and much of that was due to all the incredible people helping to drive a fast and fair clean energy transition! Join us in looking back at the top 10 stories for 2023 showcasing the work happening at Greenlink and with many of our many incredible partners. 1. Still We WeatheRISE Atlanta: Adrienne Rice, founder and executive director of Sustainable Georgia Futures, wants to solve two pressing problems at once: systemic racism and climate change. The two issues inextricably intertwined for Black communities in Georgia… 2. Mapping Racism in the U.S.: The term redlining has become synonymous with discriminatory housing policies and a legacy of racist practices. Redlining stems from the 1930s when the federal Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) published city maps categorizing neighborhoods by their alleged mortgage-lending risk… 3. Equitable Residential Building Decarbonization in Philadelphia: Buildings are a common focal point for city climate policy since residential and commercial buildings require large quantities of natural gas and electricity for heating, cooling, lighting, and other needs. In fact, buildings are responsible for approximately 30% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. In Philadelphia, they account for almost 70% of the city’s emissions… 4. The Native Lands Mapping Tool: For far too long, Native American communities have been left off the world map,, but also excluded from conversations about gathering and use of data. On June 22, 2023, Greenlink Analytics’ new digital mapping tool will make it easier to locate and understand Native territories in the U.S… 5. Disadvantaged Communities Tool: Environmental justice has come a long way since its inception alongside the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Once a novel term, the concept is now a full-fledged movement influencing people in power, including the Federal Government… 6. Our Missing Native Nations: Shé:kon (say-go) from the Greenlink Equity Team, which means hello in Kanien'kehá, one of the languages of the Mohawks. The Mohawks live in communities across northern New York State and southeastern Canada and have called these lands home for thousands of years before colonization. They’re one of 574 federally recognized Native Nations across the U.S. striving for continued recognition of their people and safekeeping of their cultures… 7. Greenlink Analytics' 2022 Annual Report: At the beginning of 2023, Greenlink published its first ever Annual Report, showcasing the amazing things our team achieved in 2022… 8. New Report Finds Orlando’s Lower Income Communities Face High Energy Burden: A new report published by Greenlink Analytics shows a large disparity between the energy burden faced by different communities across Orlando, from a low of 1.8% to as high as 9.2%. Energy burden is the percent of income spent on electricity and gas bills. The national average of the percentage of household earnings going towards energy costs is roughly 4%. 9. The Importance of Trust: How Community Engagement Helped Pass Legislation in Decatur: “Everything’s greater in Decatur,” says the City of Decatur, Ga. motto. The maxim represents a city that prides itself on walkability, good schools, vibrant small businesses, community collaboration and pioneering innovation. But like many cities around the country, Decatur, Ga., grapples with how to best integrate climate change solutions into practicable policy as the area warms… 10.  A Clean Energy Fund Would Boost Equity in Atlanta: There’s a little-known crisis happening in Atlanta right now: thousands of people are struggling to remain in their homes due to the unforgiving cost of their electricity and gas bills. This doesn’t play out well for the residents of Atlanta, the resilience and vibrancy of the city, or the city’s ability to reach its clean energy goals. And the bottom line is that the failure to address the root cause of high energy bills is stressing families and disrupting communities…

  • Decarbonizing Your Home Can Be Complex: Water Heater Edition

    The natural gas water heater tucked away in my murky basement needs replacing. For the past eighteen years I’ve barely given it thought as it consistently provided the downstairs of my house hot water, even when the electricity went out for whatever reason. But a few months ago, the overflow tank sprung a slow leak and has picked up in rhythm. It’s only a matter of time before the system fails completely and my basement turns into a kiddie pool. I’m hoping to find a new one that’s more energy efficient, reduces carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and saves me money in the long run. According to the Department of Energy the average household spends between $400 to $600 every year heating their water. That cost accounts for approximately 14% to 18% of utility bills. Finding more efficient options can mean big savings. But this depends on lots of details and there are pros and cons to consider with each. Let’s break down the broad options. Water heaters divide into two large categories based on their power source– natural gas or electricity. They further subdivide into tank and tankless options. This means that when it comes to replacing my own water heater – there were four main choices: Heat Pump Water Heater Electric Tankless Conventional Gas Water Heater Gas Tankless Greenlink Analytics did a quick number crunching exercise to look at the cost of different options over a lifespan in terms of financial, CO2 emissions, and health costs (see bottom of article). Hint: a heat pump wins the day on numerous fronts. In addition, you’ll need to know the size of the water heater that best matches the size of your home and family, you may need larger or smaller systems. ELECTRIC 1. Heat Pump Water Heater: A heat pump water heater is also called a hybrid water heater. It operates by moving heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly for providing hot water. They’re the most efficient way to heat water for residential use and can be two to three times more efficient than traditional water heaters, provides cost savings. Pros: About three times more efficient than a conventional tank water heater and does not emit any direct CO2 into the home. Cons: Needs space to function and the efficiency decreases in colder climates. Estimated Costs: Up to $3,000 (for a 50-gallon tank) Estimated Installation Costs: It can be difficult to track down a professional installer and installation costs can be over $8,000, including the appliance costs and inspection fees Rebates: The Inflation Reduction Act provides a $1,750 rebate for heat pump water heaters, or a tax credit up to $2,000. Life expectancy: 10-15 years Other requirements: They work best when installed in areas of the home that remain in the 40–90 degrees Fahrenheit and have at least 1,000 cubic feet of space around the water heater for good airflow. The home may require updates to the electric panel. 2. Electric Tankless: An electric tankless heater warms the water directly without using a storage tank. They take up less space, are more efficient than conventional tank water heaters, do not need to be vented, and provide continuous hot water. Tankless water heaters gain efficiency because they heat water on demand, instead of needing to continuously heat water in a tank. A whole 3 to 4 bedroom house electric tankless may draw more than 25,000 watts of electricity and needs a 150-amp, 240-volt breaker. The total electrical service for many houses uses less than a whole house electric tankless system may require. Pros: Take up less space than a tank water heater and does not emit CO2. Cons: May require upgrades to the electric panel and can increase electricity costs. Estimated Costs: $500 - $1500. Estimated Installation Costs: Between $800-$1500 Rebates: 10% federal tax credit Life Expectancy: Can last 20 years or longer Other Requirements: Requires annual maintenance to achieve the appliances longest lifespan. NATURAL GAS 3. Gas Tankless: A gas tankless heats water directly without using a storage tank. So they take up less space, are more efficient than conventional tank systems, and provide continuous hot water. These water heaters are up to 34% more efficient, which can save you money. It does need to be vented when installed indoors, but can be installed outside. Pros: They take up less space and are more efficient than water heaters with a tank. Cons: Depending on size of home and amount of water use, you may need more than unit one to supply hot water to multiple systems simultaneously. Estimated Costs: Between $1,000 - $1,500 Estimated Installation Costs: $1,000 to $1,500 Rebates: 10% federal tax credit Life Expectancy: Can last 20 years or longer Other Requirements: Requires annual maintenance for longevity and best performance. 4. Conventional Gas Water Heater: These tank systems store large amounts of cold water that’s heated by a natural gas flame. These are the least efficient of the systems yet most commonly installed and well known. They also can run out of hot water at times. Pro: Lower price point Cons: Less efficient than all the other options, emits CO2, and can cause flooding in the home if bursts. Estimated Costs: $550-$2000 Rebates: none Life Expectancy: Approx. 15 years Other Requirements: Takes up a significant amount of space and requires venting.

  • Learn Our Lingo

    This week we’re cutting through the data, energy, and equity jargon by sharing our own definitions of the most common terms from climate change to verification. We’ve spent time drawing on the knowledge, expertise, and culture of Greenlink with the goal of simplifying and demystifying any complex or vague language and capturing the heart of their meaning. Enjoy reading through the terms and please share those that resonate with you. Climate Change: One of the biggest issues facing humanity caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Use climate emergency or climate crisis when describing the broader impact of climate change. Data Analytics: The science of analyzing raw data to draw insights from that information. Energy: The use of physical power generated from various resources such as fossil fuels and renewables) that enables society to grow, develop, and achieve its goals. Equity: Alleviating the hardships of those most harmed by obstructed access to resources and ensuring they receive the largest benefits that support their overall wellbeing and to correct for past wrongs they have endured. Intersectional: Understanding how the connections between mainstream social constructs (such as gender, religion, race, etc.) influence an individual or community’s experiences with privilege and/or discrimination. Listening Tour: An inclusive process, that Greenlink conducts internally, of interviewing climate and equity experts across the country to understand gaps in policy and guide the direction of our work. Net Zero: Cutting greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, to as close to zero as possible. Nonwhite: A broad term used to replace BIPOC because “people of color” it’s not inclusive of all ethnicities and reduces people to an acronym. Paris Climate Agreement: An international treaty that aims to keep global warming to no more than 1.5°C – as called for in the Paris Agreement – emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. Pathways: How we get to net zero or the goal depending on the scenario. Racism: The harmful belief system that a particular racial or ethnic group is inferior to their white counterparts. Renewable Energy: Energy sources that won’t run out, including solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower. Scenarios: Alternative futures. Systemic Inequities: Barriers embedded in society that perpetuate continued discrimination. Testing: Providing data with known answers to ensure the pattern has been learned. Verification: Checking the pattern more comprehensively across more data and more tests.

  • Still We WeatheRISE

    Adrienne Rice, founder and executive director of Sustainable Georgia Futures, wants to solve two pressing problems at once: systemic racism and climate change. The two issues inextricably intertwine for Black communities in Georgia. The country’s entrenched history of racism continues hurting nonwhite people and burdens them with the most dangerous effects of climate change, while simultaneously stifling the ability to build wealth and participate in the solutions. That’s why Rice launched her nonpartisan grassroots organization to build channels so that Black and Brown communities can help develop and benefit from a regenerative economy. At heart, it’s about building power and healing broken systems. “We’re trying to get people to do a paradigm shift in the way they’re dealing with Black communities,” says Rice. “This allows them to chart out their destinies and create change.” It’s a journey of a thousand steps, and one that’s more pressing than ever. One step along the way is a partnership with the City of Atlanta through its WeatheRISE program *. The program aims to improve the housing conditions of Atlanta’s most energy burdened neighborhoods by providing energy efficiency and other home upgrades. The upgrades will reduce electricity and gas bills, decrease carbon emissions, improve health outcomes, generate jobs, and preserve affordable housing. It's a relatively small project within a larger plan for Atlanta running off of 100% clean energy by 2035. Atlanta is in the top five most energy burdened cities in the country, where median energy burdens for low- and moderate-income households hovering between 9% and 13% despite low electricity rates. And 100% of the most energy burdened neighborhoods in Atlanta are primarily Black, according to the Greenlink Equity Map (GEM). “The GEM system has been really helpful because we’re supposed to focus on the highest energy burden areas,” said Rice. “It also helps us engage.” Greenlink Analytics is undertaking the community mapping, analysis, and data reporting of the WeatheRISE program. The National Association of Minority Contractors will provide the energy audits and upgrades and job opportunities for contractor training. And Sustainable Georgia Futures is leading the outreach, education and enrollment components through neighborhood canvassing. Representation matters. Involvement also matters. Sustainable Georgia Futures has hired 11 community leaders from the most burdened communities to serve as “Campaign Ambassadors” for the program. These Ambassadors will canvas door to door to further connect with people and identify specific needs. Bringing these Ambassadors on board also means recognizing that their circumstances differ from community leaders in less burdened areas. It’s a gap that must be bridged. So, Sustainable Georgia Futures is funding their transportation, childcare, meals, and paying them $20/hour to do this important work. That pay rate will increase to $25 in January 2024 after the organization receives additional funding. “That way when they arrive, they don’t have to worry,” emphasizes Rice. “We’re showing people how to treat Black people.” Sustainable Georgia Futures and the Ambassadors have already knocked on over 1,000 of the 5,000-door goal. One hundred and eighty-seven people have signed up for the community survey that only requires a total of 200 people. With the program only recently launched, these numbers reveal the high level of interest and need in these communities. And that’s why Sustainable Georgia Future’s vision reaches far beyond WeatheRISE. WeatheRISE is the launchpad to identify leaders and activists in the counties they’re working in. The next step will be creating organizing committees with these 11 communities. The third phase will focus on community specific issue-based campaigns. It’s a multi-year process that slowly builds much needed power within Black communities in Atlanta. “It’s not enough to elect a few better representatives or pass a few better laws,” says Rice. “When we listen to the people closest to the problem and take action together, then we make change.” *This project is being supported, in whole or in part, by a federal award awarded to the CITY OF ATLANTA by the U.S. Department of Treasury.

  • Equitable Residential Building Decarbonization in Philadelphia

    Buildings are a common focal point for city climate policy since residential and commercial buildings require large quantities of natural gas and electricity for heating, cooling, lighting, and other needs. In fact, buildings are responsible for approximately 30% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. In Philadelphia, they account for almost 70% of the city’s emissions. Reducing energy use through energy efficiency and weatherization programs and transitioning to high-efficiency, clean energy technologies can provide huge emissions benefits, and in turn, reduce bills and improve health. This is especially needed in Philadelphia, which experiences significantly higher than average high energy burdens, disproportionately impacting Philadelphia’s historically marginalized and vulnerable communities. "Equitably decarbonizing Philadelphia’s residential stock is essential to achieving our carbon targets and ensuring an equitable and just energy transition in our city,” said Nidhi Krishen, Deputy Director for Climate Solutions, Philadelphia’s Office of Sustainability To better understand how to implement impactful strategies to equitably decarbonize the city’s buildings, Philadelphia developed an analysis of its building and housing stock, to understand the size, scope, and scale of this stock by type, age, use, size and energy profile. The analysis was used to inform the City’s strategy to decarbonize the residential housing stock. The City then partnered with Greenlink to pair this housing data with equity metrics such as energy burden. With this approach, the City could focus their work in the neighborhoods and communities with the greatest needs. The City and Greenlink worked to overlay Philadelphia’s housing data into the Greenlink Equity Map (GEM) tool, leveraging equity metrics already developed and mapped by the tool. This was a multi-faceted approach that included acquiring a building list from the city, integrating building data with equity attributes such as energy burden, race, and income, and visualizing the final dataset in GEM. The analysis helped the City visualize and appreciate the inextricable links between the age of homes, levels of insulation, owned or rental properties, income, race, and energy burden. Together the metrics highlight key areas of need where the City can concentrate their efforts to ensure that Philadelphia’s clean energy transition is equitable and just. “This work helps us understand the scope and scale of need for decarbonization in our historically marginalized and vulnerable communities and informs decision-making on equitable climate action in the city,” said Krishen.

  • Celebrating Founders Day!

    At Greenlink Analytics, we believe everyone should have access to clean energy, regardless of their socioeconomic status. Our work in and for communities impacts important energy decisions across the nation. We equip the communities we serve with data, analytics, and expert advice to ensure a more equitable distribution of energy resources. Those impacts speak directly to our core values and are the foundation for Greenlink as an organization. We are a passionate group who wants to do good using our expertise to impact positive change. The Greenlink Analytics we know today started back in 2014 with our founders, two PhD students at Georgia Tech - Caroline Golin and Matt Cox - developing a superior technology for analyzing energy systems and an inspiring vision for the future. The vision – a fast and fair clean energy transition – is why Greenlink exists today, and why we celebrate Founders Day! In the nine years since inception, Greenlink has made huge strides in terms of vision and impact. Much of our work begins with an initial analysis or report that informs large results over time. Take for example when Greenlink worked with like minded partners in Virginia to analyze the pathways toward a fairer, fully decarbonized energy grid. This was a project back in 2019. However, the Governor’s office used this detailed scenario evaluation to guide the passage of the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which became law in 2020. Another example starts in 2016 when Greenlink testified on behalf of equity and faith-based communities for the creation of a first-of-its-kind Income Qualified Energy Efficiency program by Georgia Power. The program would provide income-eligible customers free energy-efficiency home improvements. The Georgia Public Service Commission agreed with the testimony, and Georgia power was ordered to create a $2 million pilot program. With Greenlink’s continued engagement in 2019 and 2022, this program has more than tripled in size, helping thousands of energy burdened families in the state. To date, Greenlink has identified pathways to avoid 8.4 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions. We have worked with cities and states to find $757 billion in savings for communities. Our clean energy and community research has identified ways to save over 20,000 lives. And we have implemented over 90 equitable processes, which means engaging and allowing communities who have historically been silenced to receive data and therefore guide policy decisions due to their specific needs and vision. Our incredible team is at the heart of this work. More than anything, Greenlink wants to thank our people for all they do to achieve a cleaner and more just world. We see you. We applaud you. We are inspired by our accomplishments so far, and those still to come.

  • Disadvantaged Communities Tool

    A Way to Find, Measure, and Access Funding Environmental justice has come a long way since its inception alongside the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Once a novel term and concept is now a full-fledged movement influencing people in power, including the Federal Government. In 2021, the Biden Administration created the Justice40 Initiative to ensure that federal agencies make good on environmental justice by delivering 40% of the investments in climate, clean energy, affordable and sustainable housing, clean water, and other projects to disadvantaged communities. A community qualifies as “disadvantaged” if a census tract measures above the threshold for environmental, climate, and socioeconomic indicators. Yet, one of the challenges in executing Justice40 is finding the communities who are most in need of these investments, and directly streamlining funds to them. A new indicator within the Greenlink Equity Map helps make this possible and — dare we say — easy. Our disadvantaged communities indicator comes from the federal Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST), which identifies communities that face disproportionate burdens. The tool computes a stack of socioeconomic and environmental statistics for every census tract in the country. These metrics include income, whether it is near legacy pollution sites, and has a high projected flood or fire risk. There are numerous reasons we wanted to include this layer of data within the Greenlink Equity Map (aka GEM). With billions of investment dollars available through the American Rescue Plan, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and the IRA, it’s an important moment to get right. This means ensuring that these disadvantaged communities need to be easy to identify. It also means understanding community burdens at a deeper level. By including disadvantaged-community data in GEM, people can now concurrently measure other burdens communities face, including heat intensity, asthma rates, energy burden, tree cover, etc. Burdens sometimes cluster in eye opening ways revealing the inextricable connections between the environment, human health, and the cost of living. This is a highly efficient and manageable way to look at a multitude of factors affecting communities without having to have multiple windows and websites open. Finally, any federal funding opportunities need to be paired with community engagement to paint a better picture of where the financial efforts should be focused. The disadvantaged communities indicator can help start the discussion of where local programs should focus. Click to book a demo and see the Greenlink Equity Map's disadvantaged communities layer in action.

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