A Green City on a Blue Lake
On Wednesday, October 15th, Green Energy Ohio joined hundreds gathered at the Public Auditorium for the Annual Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Summit. While the attendees’ expertise was derived from varying backgrounds, the students, veterans, small business owners, government officials and professionals of every kind, all shared one vision, one of a thriving green city on a blue lake. For the past decade, the city has gathered with determination to turn their vision into a reality by devising a formative plan of action. The approach was as dynamic as it was cumulative. Each year, gatherings have focused on one aspect seen as essential to making a city sustainable. Known as “Celebration Years”, the topics of Energy Efficiency, Local Food, Advanced and Renewable Resources, Sustainable Transportation, Clean Water, Zero Waste, Vibrant Green Space, Vital Neighborhoods, were all addressed in leading up to the most crucial part of a city – the Year of the People.
The Year of the People
As much as “The Year of the People” was about celebrating the thousands who have contributed since 2009 and the progress they’ve made, it was also about ensuring that all people stood to benefit from the wealth of economic, social, and environmental assets a “green city on a blue lake” stand to provide. Referred to as “a focus on a circular economy”, featured speakers offered their insight on the part equity must play in order for initiatives in any of the fields of focus, (energy efficiency, local food, renewable energy, zero-waste, clean water, sustainable transportation, vibrant green space, or vital neighborhoods) to be successful and inclusive.
Fostering the development of renewable energy in Ohio is at the heart of our mission at Green Energy Ohio. The drive to ensure economic, social, and environmental benefits are available to all people made the breakout session on “Community Solar” an especially salient conversation for our Director of Communication and Outreach, Erin Fisher. Typically, the benefits of solar energy generation are restricted by the physical attributes of the home or business, the ownership of the property, and the significant upfront investment required. Community solar removes these barriers by sharing ownership of a solar installation with an entire community. Community members who “subscribe” to the project receive credit on their electric bills for “their share” of the energy produced. Green Energy Ohio sees Community Solar projects as a crucial part of ensuring a green energy future for all Ohioans.
The discussion was led by Cleveland Owns Executive Director Johnathan Welle and Hough Community Leader and Activist Cindy Mumford, who worked within the east side neighborhood of Hough to build the city’s first community solar garden. Using their experience as a guide for the success and empowerment that Cleveland communities can achieve through community solar projects, they asked the group, “How might we create community solar projects so that all Clevelanders can benefit from clean energy?”
The question was not asking about the logistics behind the creation of these projects, or what each participant could offer to such a project. Instead, it challenged the group to think about how a community solar project could generate the greatest number of benefits to the entire community. The answers were reflective of where the participants lived, worked, and socialized. Job creation and job training programs, pairing installation sites with food and pollinator gardens, and using the site as an educational resource were some of the shared ideas. The culmination of these answers considered all Clevelanders.
When chosen to share a summary of the discussion with the rest of the Summit, Erin highlighted the one benefit that their ideas would provide to all community members – shared empowerment. From increased education to financial independence, Community Solar projects, like the one in Hough, empower communities. And when the success of these projects matters to all Clevelanders, that empowerment can persist for generations to come.
A Green Energy Future
The Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Summit fostered immensely informative and inspiring dialogue, and Green Energy Ohio is honored to have been a part of the conversation. As Mayor Frank Jackson said in his opening remarks, “when you know better, you do better”, and these summits have educated and motivated thousands to do better for the people of Cleveland and its environment. Looking forward, GEO will continue to work to educate communities throughout Ohio on the benefits of renewable energy and provide them with the tools for shared empowerment. Together, we want to see a green energy future not only for the city of Cleveland, but for the state of Ohio at large