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74: Michelle Moore on "Rural Renaissance" and Clean Energy Solutions

Guest Name(s): Michelle Moore

Matt Matern interviews Michelle Moore, author of “Rural Renaissance.” Moore, CEO of Groundswell, discusses community power, community solar projects, and energy efficiency. She emphasizes local engagement with power companies and the role of tax credits and grants in promoting clean energy.

Moore highlights local heroes like Ray Leon and Harriet Lankford, and encourages community-based efforts for a sustainable future, stressing the importance of local actions in achieving climate goals.

 

Rural Renaissance: Revitalizing America’s Hometowns through Clean Power (Amazon) >>

 

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For decades, we’ve heard that local, renewable power is on the horizon, and cheaper technologies will one day revolutionize our energy system. Michelle Moore has spent her career proving this opportunity is already here—and any community, no matter how small, can build their own clean energy future. Rural Renaissance: Revitalizing America’s Hometowns Through Clean Power is the inspiring and practical guide to igniting this transition today…
For decades, we’ve heard that local, renewable power is on the horizon, and cheaper technologies will one day revolutionize our energy system. Michelle Moore has spent her career proving this opportunity is already here—and any community, no matter how small, can build their own clean energy future. Rural Renaissance: Revitalizing America’s Hometowns Through Clean Power is the inspiring and practical guide to igniting this transition today…
Michelle Moore is CEO of Groundswell, a nonprofit that builds community power by connecting solar and energy efficiency with economic development, affordability, and quality of life. A social entrepreneur and former White House official with roots in rural Georgia, Michelle is a relentless agent for change…
Epsidoe 74: Michelle Moore, CEO of Groundswell & Author of "Rural Renaissance"
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You’re listening to Unite and Heal America. This is Matt Matern, your host. And today I’ve got a great guest on the program, Michelle Moore. Michelle recently wrote a book, Rural Renaissance. And I’ve read a bit of the book, it’s very interesting, very intriguing gives us a bit of the history about power in this country, in terms of electrical power that is, but also as it’s connected to political power, and how it relates to democracy in a small” d,” you know, basis, and that how our power companies many times 2000 plus of them are our small companies, or moderate sized companies that generate and distribute power throughout the country and how important that is.

And Michelle has got a quite a resume and worked in the Obama White House and had had worked on rolling out their initiatives, and then went back to her rural roots, and in Georgia, and now is doing a lot of great work there on the ground. Michelle, great to have you on the program. And tell us a little bit about your journey to get into the environmental movement and what, what work you’re engaged in right now.

Thank you so much, Matt. It’s a blessing to be here with you today. And, you know, it’s just really been a blessing to do this work, you know, is you shared, I’m from a small town in Georgia, I’m from LaGrange, Georgia. And growing up there, I have to tell you, it was my worst nightmare as a teenager to think about going off to college and ended up back at home again, working in a textile company. But that’s exactly what happened.

And it really showed me working for interface and really being mentored by the wonderful Ray Anderson, who was the founder of founding chairman of that company, how we can do well, by doing good, and how doing right by the environment, doing right by people doing right by the economy, all works together harmoniously. And that experience.

And that principled guide, has really been the North Star for me throughout my professional career. And the work that I do now is the CEO of groundswell. The work that I share in Rural Renaissance is really about bringing for me, you know, 25 years plus of experience and a whole lot of lessons learned from the, you know, from the good stuff, and from the hard knocks you take to, and how to better serve, you know, how can we go back to our hometowns?

How can I go back to my hometown, and really help people and help people cut their bills, help people get a better job, you know, help support entrepreneurialism and rural business and quality of life. You know, at the same time, we’re all going through this clean energy transition together and building better energy futures.

Well, tell us a little bit about how that works on the micro level, and in terms of your work at groundswell, and that organization, and what its mission is and what its accomplishments are.

So Groundswell’s mission is building community power. And we mean that in every sense of the word, you know, we develop community solar projects, and community resilience and energy efficiency that helps people cut their bills, and live comfortably, you know, in a more comfortable and healthy home, and we do research, and we work alongside our partners in the field, just really trying to get good things done. And what does that look like on the ground?

You know, I think to answer that question, I’ll maybe zoom out just a little bit. You know, because when we when we think about climate and clean energy, and when it gets talked about in the national stage, you know, oftentimes what we’re talking about is pollution and pollution reduction, you know, giga tons of GHG emissions reduction, and we know measures and policies that can seem really far away.

And as a local person, trying to participate in that conversation can kind of feel like shouting into the wind. And we focus on people’s experience. So how can we, you know, get into your home, understand what the opportunity is for energy efficiency, to help you cut your bills, you know, how can we look at community solar as a way to share power and share clean energy savings with the local community?

You know, from from my perspective, too When and from groundswells perspective, you know, prioritizing the needs of the people in our community who really need to save on electricity the most? And how can we think about pairing batteries with that solar energy energy storage? So we’re making our communities more resilient in the process. So it’s about a whole lot more than just energy and climate. You know, it’s really about our lives. And it’s about affordability, and it’s about quality of life.

Well, I think that’s what I was struck with by your book, is that how it’s connecting the dots of how we as citizens can play a part in this process, because as you said, sometimes it can seem a little bit overwhelming when you look at the IPCC reports, which are six inches thick and full of science that PhDs might have a hard time understanding what on us folks that maybe didn’t get science degrees, and breaking it down into digestible pieces.

And I think one of the things that you talk about in the book, which I’ve heard some other people talk about, which I endorse is getting involved in it with our local power companies and things like that. Because there’s a lack of kind of accountability and transparency and actual engagement with those entities, which have local boards, which are elected, which many of us will, I think you’d said 90% of the people don’t vote in these in these elections. So having engagement is is the first step towards making real change. Right?

Absolutely. And as you observe, Matt, you know, it’s really about energy democracy with a little D, you know, something a lot of folks don’t realize is that more than 50% of America’s landmass, is served by rural and public power utilities. So public power utilities, like municipal utilities, were the utilities, that unit of the local government.

And all together, there are more than 2000 of them, every single one of them is governed by a locally elected board or by the local city council. And, and those are all opportunities that everyone who was served by these, those utilities have to not just participate, you know, but to really drive the community’s vision for its own clean energy future. It’s, you know, it’s also really beautifully paired with the way that energy policy is really structured in our country, which is federalism at work.

And these rural cooperative and public power utilities, many of them were created a little wrapped around 100 years ago, during FDR time is president. And they’re all about local self reliance. They’re all about community economic development. And not only does every single person who’s a customer of a rural cooperative, for instance, have a vote for who serves on that board, that every single person who’s a customer of cooperative utilities is also an owner of that utility.

So it’s a really different way of thinking about our, our energy futures and how we express our voice. And then the conventional approach, which focuses on big investor owned utilities, you know, that are governed by a Public Service Commission and, and who that are a little further away in terms of being able to exercise that little “d” democratic control.

Well, I like the idea of people putting up solar arrays on their homes or small businesses, or larger businesses or out in farmlands that they might own that, that kind of dissipate the power from the power centers and the big power companies to to individuals so that, that we have a little bit more control a little more say in how things work and, and that they have less say in how things work is a win win situation, as far as I’m concerned.

And you talk about in your book, how there’s many governments or governmental entities that have put roadblocks in the way of, of doing that, which is kind of shocking, but not completely unexpected.

I think when we you know, when we look at it, we think about our homes, our rooftops, our farmlands, our property, you know it to me, it comes down to energy property rights, you know, it’s mine, and I’d be able to put a solar panel on if I want and be able to use that energy myself. And there are a lot of roadblocks out there for sure. But there are also a lot of creative ways around them and ways to build coalitions to be able to move through them together.

Right. Well that’s that’s something that we need to work on. In California, I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job of creating incentives for people to use the solar but it’s not probably democracy, yet democratized enough and people who are wealthier probably has first crack at these things. And he talked about incentives and tax breaks and sometimes favoring people who are wealthier, just kind of inherently because they have tax bills to get relief from where somebody who’s poor may not have that have that need.

And in those instances, and this is true in California to community solar is a wonderful way that we can work together and build solar installations that are going to be able to help serve our neighbors who have less wealth, or who may not own their own roof.

Matt 10:52
Yeah, so these are these are important, you know, pieces of the puzzle going forward to to roll out energy to, you know, to take the place of the dirtier energy that obviously, we’re still relying upon. So you’re listening to Unite and Heal America, and this is Matt Matern, your host and I’ve got Michelle Moore on the program, Michelle just wrote a book rural, Rural Renaissance. And we’ll be back in just one minute to talk to Michelle about the work that she’s done and the work that she’s planning to do in the future.

You’re listening to Unite and Heal America, this is Matt Matern, your host. We have got Michelle Moore on the program. Michelle, we were talking right before the break about community solar. Tell us a little bit about that concept and how it works in practice.

Community Solar is also known as shared solar. So instead of having solar panels on your home’s roof top or on your business’s rooftop, that you use behind the meter that only gets credited to your own bill, community solar projects, maybe a little bigger, you know, maybe they’re on a disused parcel of land, maybe they’re on a bigger rooftop, like a church rooftop and the community and multiple households, many people are able to subscribe to solar from that centrally located array.

So community solar is a really wonderful way to bring the benefits of solar, especially to savings in states like California, when Darren strong incentives, and it can really help you cut your bill to a more economically diverse communities, people, and also to enable people who rent their homes instead of owning their homes, to participate in solar and to be able to get those same benefits to and how do you see that rolling out?

I mean, what’s one of the ways that your organization is helping or organizations across the country, working to make community so we’re more of a reality.

Community Solar is actually one of the fastest growing segments of the solar marketplace, and particularly community solar projects that are serving households with lower and moderate incomes, you know, so people for whom those savings are really going to help their families bottom line, and the way that community solar is growing.

You know, it’s one more demonstration of energy federalism in America. You know, in some states, you can build a community solar project, and in some states, they’re not legal yet. Because the only entity that can sell electricity is the utility, you know, not a third party owned solar project.

But in our experience, you know, they’re they’re really beautiful ways, really beautiful ways to demonstrate our connection to our neighbors, you know, groundswell the organization, i Lee has worked with a number of churches and other communities of faith throughout the Southside of Chicago, in Baltimore, Montgomery County, Maryland, Washington, DC, and up in Rochester, New York, to build projects that share power among neighbors.

And in some cases, the community solar is helping people who are subscribe, save more than $500 a year on their utility bills. So where are those solar savings are available? It’s a wonderful way to make them available to people for whom $500 back in your pocket per year is rent. You know, it’s grocery money, it’s medicine. And, you know, in the climate we’re all living in now the economic climate, and it’s also a way to help families push back against the impact of inflation on their household pocket. Ducks?

Well, that’s that sounds great. I guess I would ask, say if I’m somebody here in California who wants to be involved in a community solar project, you know, how does that start? How does that actually work in reality.

So in California, California has so many different utilities, right, the way that community solar works, if your utility is La DPW, is going to be a little bit different than the way community solar works. If your utility is PG and E, you know, up in the northern part of the state. But if you want to participate in a community solar project, say you’re living in a condo, or you’re renting your home, a great place to start is actually to go to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Rails website. They have a database of every single community solar project in the country.

And so you can find one near you, literally on an easy to navigate map. Now, if you want to create a community solar project in your community, you know, say you, you are a community of faith, and you’re part of the community of faith, you’ve got a big ol rooftop, and you want to figure out how you can share that power. There are a number of wonderful ways to start. You know, I believe in nonprofits in the importance of nonprofits as community service entities, you know, so you could call groundswell we can help you get a start.

Grid Alternatives is a California based organization. That is that is focused on solar that supports low and moderate income households with solar savings. So you can connect with GRID Alternatives, is a wonderful place to start to, then there are many other organizations, depending on what part of the state you’re living in. We know that we’re also working in in light kind to our mission, which is connecting those benefits of renewable energy to low and moderate income communities. So that we’re really strengthening our communities is removing too towards a clean energy future.

Tell us once again, that website that you had mentioned, the national renewable solar organization.

It’s the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. It’s kind of a mouthful. If you Google it, it’s the first hit that you’ll come to. You could also look us up at groundswell.org, and we’d be happy to also help point you in the right direction.

Okay, great. Well, you know, it sounds like a great resource. It’s one of those things that if you have no idea what you’re looking for, you’d never find but through opening up our eyes to new possibilities, and our ears. So what other ways you were talking about resilience before and what types of things is groundswell doing and other organizations doing in California that could help people in that regard?

Oh, resilience is another really important benefit of distributed energy technology. Right? So it’s solar, it’s energy storage, it’s the micro grids that help put them together. And when we think about the value of resilience, whether you’re building greater resilience in your own home, or whether you’re building community resilience centers, it really helps to make a point of pain and address the very real vulnerabilities that we’re experiencing associated with the impacts of climate change.

You know, whether it’s families or businesses and communities and California that have faced power cuts, because of wildfire risks, or brownouts, because the drought means that there’s less hydropower available for the state. Building for resilience directly helps to meet those needs. So what does that mean, as a practical matter, if you’re thinking about your own home, you know, it could be combining rooftop solar, with energy storage, so with a battery in your home, so if the power goes out, you’re able to keep the lights on.

And that energy storage, having a battery incorporated with your solar system means you’re gonna have energy at night when the sun doesn’t shine as well. From groundswells perspective, you know, we’ve been building what we call community resiliency hubs for about the past four years, and working with the City of Baltimore is where we got started city of Baltimore and Maryland, national leader in Community Energy resilience.

And what’s different about community energy resilience is what you might imagine, you know, we’re thinking about resilient centers that meet the needs aids have a whole neighborhood, you know, particularly the most vulnerable among our neighbors, you know, think about elders who may live near you, and people who may have diabetes, so who have particular health sensitivities to extreme heat or extreme cold.

So if the power goes out, and the heat or the cools not on, you know, those are folks who face, you know, in some cases a real risk of death, and serious illness, if they don’t have access to energy. So community resiliency hubs combined solar and energy storage, oftentimes on a community of faith, or at a church or in a community center.

And they provide places where people can come and gather to charge their phones, stay warm, stay cool, keep medicines refrigerated, stuff like insulin, you know, that has to stay in the refrigerator to be useful. And it just helps us together to face the risks and vulnerabilities that are posed by the extreme weather that we’re experiencing from a changing climate in a way that enhances our well being.

Well, I certainly we’ve heard a fair amount of talk about micro grids in the past on this show, and in newspapers and stuff. What is your organization doing, apart from what you already described in terms of creating micro grids that essentially allow local communities to kind of control their own power and power future?

We’re getting them built. You know, most people can, you know, a lot of people have a hard time imagining a vision, right? Unless they can see touch and feel it. So we’re building stuff. So people can see what a clean energy future looks like it’s more resilient to my home state is Georgia. And we’re in the process now of developing a community Resiliency Center that’s anchored by the Atlanta University complex, which is Atlanta’s HBCUs and serving the surrounding neighborhoods.

Tell us how are you doing that in, in, in reality, give us give us a little bit more of the details.

Okay. So, you know, when, when we begin to build a community resiliency hub, you know, the first thing we do is consult with the community, you know, to understand not only what the community’s resilience priorities are, so what’s the most important thing, you know, what’s the most important resilience service for you to get?

And we also work with the community to make sure that we’re putting them in the right place, you know, where are the facilities that people feel comfortable gathering? In some cases, it may not be what you think?

Well, you’re listening to United and Heal America. This is Matt Matern, your host. And I’ve got Michelle Moore, author of Rural Renaissance, a book about bringing power and new hope to rural areas around the country. Stay tuned, we’ll be back with Michelle in just one minute.

You’re listening to Unite and Heal America. This is Matt Matern, your host ,and I’ve got Michelle Moore on program show author of Rural Renaissance. And, Michelle, you’re talking about a lot of great stuff. I guess the question is, how do you fund all of this?

That is great and incredibly important question. And when we’re when we’re thinking about, okay, we, we got it, we got an idea, we got a vision that we want to build it in our community, how do we pay for it? The first thing we have to think about is where do we live? You know, because energy federalism right? Everywhere in America, even in California, even if you everybody lives in California is going to have a little bit different approach to funding and financing and developing resiliency projects.

For instance, depending on what kind of incentives or support may be available from your local municipality. And also, you know, what kind of incentives or policies or support may be may be available from your local utility, for example, pg&e in the northern part of the state has had a number of community resilience grants. So grants from the utility that help pay for the battery.

And if you live in a more rural community, you may have different kinds of opportunities still, you know, second piece, and Matt, this is something you talked about, and that’s the role of tax credit finance, in in clean energy with the inflation Reduction Act that just recently got signed. Under the law, the value of the tax credits for both solar and for energy storage increased. So the standard order of business, if you will, is those tax credits are worth 30% of the total value of the project.

But there’s an additional kicker now too, if your project is being built in an underserved community, or in a community that’s considered an energy transition community, where fossil fuel mining or burning fossil fuels for energy was a big part of your community’s economic well being, those tax credits are worth 40%. Clearly, you know, tax credits are only available to people who have wealth or companies who have wealth, who can use those tax credits.

But 30 or 40%, is too much value to leave on the table. And the third piece, is there just an increasing array of grants and other programs that are available to help buy down the cost of innovative technologies that may still have little heftier price tag on them. Technologies like energy storage and micro grids that turned solar projects into resilience projects to, and particularly if you’re in a rural community, if you own a farm, if you’re a rural business person, the USDA has a tremendous array of grant funds that are available that will buy down the full cost premium of installing projects like this.

A great program actually is called reap our EAP that gets Rural Energy for America program because y’all it’s it’s not energy, if there’s not an acronym, and reap grants that are available from USDA at the state level are a wonderful way to deploy these technologies for the benefit of your businesses and the benefit of your communities.

So that would be for people who are farmers, that they would have the ability to get funds in order to put solar on their properties, farmers and also rural businesses to me No. So if you’re, if you’re a banker and a rural community, and you own and you own your building, or if you’re the owner of the farmer supply building, or you have a gas station, that serving rural community, you know, there are all sorts of different types of applications for these kinds of programs and funds.

And I know there are a lot of different perspectives out there about whether the installation Reduction Act was a good thing or a bad thing. But from my point of view, you know, it’s the law of the land. Now, there are a lot of opportunities there to really build in, you know, to our communities and our businesses, and in many cases, our homes, in ways that have economic benefits that benefit the climate. So don’t get that money, bring it home, put it to good use.

So I’d asked you the question of how do you see that Inflation Reduction Act affecting your organization and the amount of work and good that you can do for your community in particular?

I don’t really see it as a great ad or, you know, it’s like a, it’s like supercharging the opportunities? Or? Yeah, I mean, it’s like it’s a supercharged the opportunities to use clean energy, to support our communities to support our families, and, and really to connect with economic opportunity and empowerment. I’ll give you a specific example.

And this is one, you know, instead of in the clean energy in the solar vein, rather is it is about energy efficiency, because the Inflation Reduction Act includes a host of new tax credits, expanded tax credits, and also direct consumer rebates for making our homes more energy efficient, including installing new heat pumps, new heating and cooling systems, and big ticket items, you know, that can be difficult even for a middle class or a little more affluent family to afford all in one, Chuck.

So to be able to access those kinds of incentives in a way that cuts our utility bills, reduces climate pollution, support the environment is a wonderful opportunity that everyone who you know, is looking at that utility bill and thinking man, this is little too high, or who’s home has a hard time staying cool and there’s really hot days. Now is the time to look at making those investments to make your home more comfortable, healthier, and more. are energy efficient.

And I’ll give you one more example of that, because I think this was a really important innovation too. And it and it’s another way that that it helps us all, you know, to improve our communities this were moving towards a clean energy future. And that was expanding the EV tax credit to use EVs to, we all know that a new EV has a pretty pretty price tag on it, or a pretty hefty price tag on it rather, and being able to access that tag sensitive.

If you’re buying a used EV just makes it accept accessible to a whole lot larger community of people a much greater economic diversity of people, and increases the chances that those EVs are getting into the into the hands and into the driveways and the carports, you know, of people who are going to be able to really put the savings from fuel costs to get work.

Yeah, so that’s a great benefit. And I was going to ask you to drill down a little bit more on heat pumps. And I think it’s one of those things that probably myself and the rest of the audience know, oh, maybe a little bit about but could use a little bit more information on and and particularly how the Inflation Reduction Act maybe makes that more affordable for people and how it might help save people money on their utility bills going forward.

Heat pumps can be a great way to significantly reduce your electricity bill. Without getting too technical. You know, heat pumps really take advantage geothermal heat pumps, in particular have the fact that, you know, it stays pretty cool underground states have pretty steady temperature. So by you know, circulating coolant, you know, underground and a geothermal heat pump, be able to more efficiently, you know, cool your home or heat your home, by taking advantage of what nature already has to offer us. It’s not a technology that you can use everywhere.

And it is a technology that can be kind of expensive to install. But the inflation Reduction Act has a very significant tax incentive associated with installing heat pumps for your homes and businesses. I don’t remember the exact amount. I want to say it’s up to $8,000, though, and it is a wonderful, super efficient technology to consider for your home, you know, particularly if you’re at that point where you’re ready to change out your heating and cooling system.

But there’s a great website that you can go to, to learn more specifics about exactly what the inflation Reduction Act has to offer you as a homeowner. And that’s rewire America. It’s just spelled exactly like it sounds, rewire America, look them up on Google. And it’ll break it right down for you.

Thank you for that. It’s, this is a very important piece of I think, public, you know, public service is to, to help Americans understand something as complex as the inflation Reduction Act, because, as we know, it’s probably hundreds of pages long. And it’s challenging for the average citizen to dissect it or have the time to do it.

So it’s great to have somebody like you on the show who will understands it and can help direct us to some information to break that stuff down. You talked a little bit about infrastructure, and how how will the IRA and the prior infrastructure bill that got passed earlier this year, be be helpful to creating a more sustainable future here?

Well, our electrical infrastructure is just as much in need of an upgrade is pretty much every other aspect of American infrastructure to one of the things that really surprised me when I was researching the book is that the United States experiences more power outages than any other country in the world. And those power outages are getting more frequent and longer, especially for people who live in rural communities.

And that’s kind of a shocking fact, Michelle, that somehow we outperform the world and power outages not not a title that we really want to hold. Well, you’re your’re listening to Unite and Heal America and this is Matt Matern, your host and we’ll be back in just one minute to talk to Michelle Moore, CEO of Groundswell, also author of Rural Renaissance, a book about rural energy. So we’ll be back in just one minute.

You’re listening to Unite and Heal America, this is Matt Matern. And I’m talking to Michelle Moore, author of Rural Renaissance, a book that is about rural energy and rural power. Michelle, one of the things we were talking about before the break was the infrastructure and the grid in the United States, and how dysfunctional it’s been kind of, and that’s, in many ways, I believe the cause of all these power crashes that we seem to have, which outperform the world in terms of, you know, industrialized tech leader having these problems, it’s kind of embarrassing.

To me, it seems like it’s in part due to the fact that we don’t have really a national system and national leadership. So we have kind of this crazy, crazy quilt of local and state and, you know, which, you know, on one hand has some strength of having more people involved, but it also creates dysfunctionality of of creating a system that really works for the country and whole. What are your thoughts on that? Do you see any improvements coming down the line? Or are we going to be looking for more dysfunction going forward?

Yeah. And, Matt, the fact of the matter is also that a lot of our grid is just really old. I know, it was built between 50, you know, up to 100 years ago. And so it’s old technology. And we’ve got a whole lot of new technology available now. And bottom line, it’s just time for an upgrade. That is you shared, you know, our our grid nationally, if you will, is a crazy quilt of different jurisdictions.

And while they are some federal authority, for instance, through FERC, through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, that helps to set you know, rules of the road and standards. We don’t have a centralized energy policy system, we have a Federalist system. And as you share that has a lot of strengths. And it also presents a lot of challenges. But with the distributed energy technology that we have now, not just with renewables and other kinds of clean energy, with energy storage opportunities, with micro grids, that can be a real game changer.

So that we’re able to upgrade our grid in a way that makes it more resilient and more resilient from a cybersecurity perspective to I would add, and that also is working in alignment with, you know, the regional or state level or utility level or local level control, if you will, I’ll give you two quick examples of how that has some real benefits. Rural Utilities and Texas, you know, are finding that by paring distribution scale solar, so community solar thinks solar that’s covering maybe 10 acres of land, you know, so you can kind of get a picture in your mind of what that looks like.

With energy storage, they’re not only getting a more modern, more resilient grid, they’re also reducing their infrastructure costs. So it’s a net bottom line benefit to the utility too. And even in Alabama, you know, Alabama, where my baby sister lives, where a lot of people are from, which otherwise has what a lot of Alabamians call the solar tax, where the utility makes it just incredibly expensive to try to install solar on your own rooftop.

Alabama has also done a really advanced pilot that has energy clean energy, smart appliances, a micro grid energy storage at a neighborhood scale with it with a new housing development, essentially, you know, that’s also demonstrating how we can deploy a more resilient, more efficient, modern grid with today’s technology, as we’re building new and as we’re retrofitting old. And so the lack of a centralized system makes it hard, but there is still progress that we can make at every level of government, including at the hyperlocal.

Well, I I was encouraged by the work that you were describing in your book Rural Renaissance and, and describing a lot of leaders at the local level and regional level that are doing tremendous work to do make changes to, to our electrical system and to build out solar systems. Tell us a little bit about what who your mentors were and who you feel like are helping us lead us to a brighter future.

There are so many local heroes, all across rural America, rural California, Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, all over the place. And a lot of them are just working small, you know, working at the local level, and haven’t been seen yet. But there are two that really come to mind, especially thinking about California. And, and that’s really the story of two arrays, Ray Leon, who was the mayor in rural California, and racy Anderson, who is one of my mentors in Georgia. And both of them are showing how clean energy can build healthier, more economically vital communities to really own in California, used EVs to create a rural transit system.

And so in his community, rural households and your rural residents, many people who were working in the agricultural industry, you know, what have to drive an hour plus to Fresno to get to a doctor’s appointment, and it was very expensive, more than $100 for the trip. I mean, that’s as much sometimes as your doctor’s bill.

And that was real impediment to people seeking medical care that they needed. But by using EVs to create a transit system, he was able to cut those trip costs by more than half and, you know, really create a cleaner energy future that was awesome meeting a very specific need of the people in the community that he serves. And that example from rural California, is an example that rural communities could follow all over America.

Now, because right now, you know, even with gas prices beginning to come down, you know, the average real family is paying more than $900. More for gas and diesel this year, than last year. And because of rising costs, and because when you live somewhere, really, you got to drive further to get everywhere. So it’s a real, it’s a real practical way to help meet people’s needs. And what we’re talking about infrastructure to like, we go from the local to the global scale.

Raci Anderson’s daughter, Harriet Lankford, founded a program called the array. And it’s looking at how our highway systems can become sustainable infrastructure for the future. And the RE know partnered with an energy research group out of Texas, and they have now published online free for all.

A quantification, not only of how much solar could be generated on highway right of ways, right, so think about no solar power, or being able to charge EB vehicles, you know, right there from the roadway as our technology improves, but also how those same existing right of ways could be used for very direct current cable to not only modernize our electric grid, but also to make it vastly more efficient than it is.

That’s a great idea. And it’s clear to me, that our investment opportunities for the future to invest in our clean energy future and clean water, clean air, and that that’s where we should be investing the majority of our investment dollars, because our planet depends upon this, and we have to put our money where our mouth is, otherwise, the future looks pretty grim.

Quite, you know, you you set forward and a number of great examples of people doing work, but we need a tremendous increase in in those efforts in order for us to meet the targets that have been set, right?

Absolutely. And, you know, man, I’m a I’m a glass half full kind of person. And, you know, for me, the fundamental foundation of my work is my faith, you know, and the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. And and I know that all good is possible. And I also know that this is America, and we are a nation of innovators. And we’re a nation of local civic leaders too.

So no matter where you live, no matter what you do, no matter what scale you work at, right Whether you’re at the local level, or whether you’re working on the national playing field, there are probably half a dozen great thing she could do. And I wrote real Rural Renaissance is a roadmap for exactly that. We know if you’re a small town leader, if you’re from a small town, if you love your small town, if you’re just curious about what rural America can do, it’s a roadmap for how to pick up the baton.

And think about how a clean energy future connects with your community’s priorities and needs. And go out and build something, build a business, build a solar project, build a resiliency project, you know, figure out how to use EVs for your communities, transit systems follow Mayor Rayleigh all there are dozens of great things that we can all do to build better local clean energy futures, that help our global community to.

Well, that’s what I really liked about your book, Michelle, is that you, you really took it from the 30,000 foot level of the national policies and broke it broke it down to what we can do on a micro level, you know, small scale, and that’s, that’s really valuable. And it’s kind of a roadmap and a toolbox for those of us who want to do work in this area.

Sometimes. It just, it seems a bit daunting and and when you make it a little bit more accessible, okay, I could do this, I could do that I could vote for my local waterboard or I can, you know, power company, then, you know, I can take the first step and so that’s a, that’s a very good message.

I really appreciate the work that you’re doing and wish you all the best in getting your book out there to the masses or Rural Renaissance. Please check it out on Amazon. Great read. I’m about a third of the way through and I’m really liking it. So. Michelle, thanks for being on the program.

This is Matt Matern, your host of Unite and Heal America. We’ll be back next week. Have a great week everybody.

As you may know, your host Matt Matern of Unite and Heal America is also the founder of Matern Law Group, their team of experienced employment consumer and environmental attorneys are dedicated to leveling the playing field by giving everyone access to the highest quality legal representation contact 844 MLG for you, that’s 844 MLG for you or 844-654-4968. 844-654-4968.

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