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Thursday, May 25, 2017

UPSTART to bring community solar to L’Anse and to participate in National Solar Competition

L'Anse Village Manager Robert LaFave is pictured here in front of solar panels installed at the Village’s Water Treatment Facility. (Photo courtesy Brad Barnett, Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region regional planner)

L'ANSE -- The Upper Peninsula Solar Technical Assistance Team (UPSTART) has been selected to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative’s Solar in Your Community Challenge. 

Over the next 18 months, UPSTART will design a community solar program to enable residents and businesses in L’Anse, Mich., to go solar. UPSTART received a $10,000 technical assistance award from the U.S. Department of Energy to support its efforts. UPSTART’s program will explore innovative funding models, and the lessons learned from this pilot project will inform other Upper Peninsula communities looking to go solar. UPSTART is one of eight Michigan-based teams competing in the competition and the only Upper Peninsula-based team to receive an award.

UPSTART will join hundreds of other teams from around the country in their pursuit of solar projects and programs that expand solar access to low- and moderate-income households and nonprofit organizations. All teams will compete for $1 million in final prizes, which will be awarded by judges based on each project or program’s innovation, impact, and replicability. 

UPSTART will work with L’Anse residents and businesses to develop a 50kW community solar program. The team will identify opportunities to increase low- to moderate-income (LMI) families’ access to solar power through creative funding and outreach models and will build on a technical feasibility study completed this spring by Michigan Technological University’s Keweenaw Research Center.

UPSTART is an innovative partnership dedicated to facilitating rapid community solar growth in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. UPSTART’s team members include Michigan Tech's Keweenaw Research Center and Environmental and Energy Policy Program, WPPI Energy, the Village of L’Anse, and the Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region (WUPPDR).

Visit UPSTART’s Facebook Page for the latest news, updates, and ways for you to get involved.

The Solar in Your Community Challenge, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative and administered by SUNY Polytechnic Institute, is a $5 million prize competition that aims to expand solar access to low and moderate income households; and state, local, and tribal governments; and non-profit organizations.

More information about the selected teams and the Solar in Your Community Challenge is at      

Monday, May 22, 2017

Citizens' Climate Lobby workshop inspires local citizens concerned about climate change; local CCL Chapter to meet May 22

By Michele Bourdieu

Elizabeth Dell, Great Lakes Regional coordinator for the Citizens' Climate Lobby, meets with a group of local citizens concerned about climate change at a workshop on May 6, 2017, in the Keweenaw Co-op in Hancock. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

HANCOCK -- In preparation for forming a local chapter of the Citizens' Climate Lobby, a group of about a dozen citizens concerned about climate change met with Elizabeth Dell, Great Lakes Regional coordinator for the Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL) on May 6, 2017, in the meeting room at the Keweenaw Co-op in Hancock.

[The first meeting of a local CCL chapter will be held TONIGHT, Monday, May 22, at 7:30 p.m., following the presentation "Sea Change: Addressing Climate Change on Lake Superior," at the Portage Lake District Library.*]

To begin her workshop, Dell, who is from Traverse City, Mich., gave a brief history of the founding of CCL and presented CCL's single proposed solution to climate change: To empower citizens to connect with and influence their members of Congress to work toward passage of Carbon Fee and Dividend, a climate change solution that bridges the partisan divide.

Carbon Fee and Dividend is a revenue-neutral carbon tax with 100 percent of the net revenue returned directly to households. CCL believes it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions 52 percent below 1990 levels within 20 years while growing the economy and saving lives.

"Our purpose is to create the political will to address climate change," Dell said. "We advocate for Carbon Fee and Dividend because we think it's one of the most effective, efficient and visible ways to reduce greenhouse gases, and we think we can get bi-partisan support."

Elizabeth Dell, Great Lakes Regional Coordinator for the Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL), introduces her May 6, 2017, workshop in Hancock by relating how CCL was founded and defining its mission. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

The Carbon Fee

CCL proposes an initial fee of $15/ton on the CO2 equivalent emissions of fossil fuels, escalating $10/ton/year, imposed upstream at the mine, well or port of entry.**

Dell noted citizens are paying an artificially low price for fossil fuels -- a price that doesn't include hidden costs such as health impacts, military use, sea level rising, floods and more.

An increasing tax on fossil fuels will result in high prices that consumers and investors will try to avoid, she added.

"All this will drive technology in the direction of more clean energy," Dell said.

The Dividend

According to the CCL Web site, "100 percent of the net fees from the carbon fee are held in a Carbon Fees Trust fund and returned directly to households as a monthly dividend. About two-thirds of households will break even or receive more than they would pay in higher prices. This feature will inject billions into the economy, protect family budgets, free households to make independent choices about their energy usage, spur innovation and build aggregate demand for low-carbon products at the consumer level."**

The revenue neutral dividend does not grow government and is intended to protect lower income earners, Dell explained.

According to the proposal so far, every adult in a household would receive the same amount, and each child (up to two children per household) would receive half that amount monthly.

According to CCL, economic modeling studies have found that in just 20 years a Carbon Fee and Dividend policy could reduce carbon emissions to 50 percent of 1990 levels while adding 2.8 million jobs to the American economy.**

Clean Energy Economy

During the workshop, a question on whether the Carbon Fee and Dividend policy would lead to replacing fossil fuels with clean energy led to a discussion on why this would happen:

After Elizabeth Dell points out how the increased cost for fossil fuels is expected to lead to more investment in clean energy, workshop participants join in the discussion. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

The CCL Web site points out statistics showing that green energy jobs already outnumber coal, oil and gas jobs and renewable energy is expected to provide more and higher paying jobs as well as more diverse opportunities.***

Lobbying Congress

Dell explained the importance of lobbying Republican members of the House and Senate to communicate to them CCL's proposed Carbon Fee and Dividend solution to climate change. She described recent progress in the U.S. House of Representatives, which now has a bi-partisan Climate Solutions Caucus with 38 members -- 19 Republicans and 19 Democrats.

During her May 6 workshop in Hancock, Elizabeth Dell speaks about the bi-partisan Climate Solutions Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

The bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus explores policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate. The caucus was founded in February of 2016 by two south-Florida representatives Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) who serve as co-chairs of the caucus.****

During a break in the workshop for small-group discussion, participants share personal experiences and thoughts about climate change solutions and lobbying . Pictured here, from left, are Nancy Langston, Anne Newcombe, Julie Bakkila and Bill Binroth. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Dell encouraged the workshop participants to form a local chapter of the Citizens' Climate Lobby and coordinate with other Michigan CCL chapters, including those in Marquette and Traverse City, to lobby District 1 House Rep. Jack Bergman and/or his staff members in order to communicate CCL's mission.

"Lobbying is one of the most important things we can do," Dell said. "That (lobbying) allows us to build relationships with members of Congress (House and Senate) and start making change that could lead to legislation," Dell said.

Sharing their recent lobbying experiences with the group were Nancy Langston, who visited with one of Bergman's Marquette staff recently, and Sarah Green, who spoke about visiting Bergman's office in Washington, DC, while she was there for the Apr. 29, 2017, People's Climate March. Langston and Green are co-organizers of the Keweenaw Climate Community (KCC), which has sponsored several events on climate change locally.*****

Elizabeth Dell speaks about lobbying Congressional representatives and senators to gain their support for CCL's Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

Dell also noted the importance of speaking with local officials about CCL and making them aware of the need to address climate change. A local chapter of CCL could, for example, influence county or city officials to adopt a resolution such as the Republican Climate Resolution (H.Res.195), which is being introduced by a group of 20 Republican House Members led by Reps. Elise Stefanik, Carlos Curbelo, and Ryan Costello. The resolution invokes the conservative principle "'to protect, conserve, and be good stewards of our environment, responsibly plan for all market factors, and base our policy decisions in science and quantifiable facts on the ground.'" 

The House Resolution resolves, "'That the House of Representatives commits to working constructively, using our tradition of American ingenuity, innovation, and exceptionalism, to create and support economically viable, and broadly supported private and public solutions to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates, including mitigation efforts and efforts to balance human activities that have been found to have an impact.'" ******

Dell encouraged everyone at the workshop to join CCL and to volunteer to spread the word about its proposed climate solution.

During the May 6 workshop, Elizabeth Dell displays a handout for recruiting new CCL volunteers. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Dell reminded workshop participant to check the CCL Web site for more detailed information and to tune in to the one-hour weekly intro call on Wednesday at 8 p.m. (EDT). The Web site also holds monthly meetings with guest speakers accessible on line.

Dell is optimistic about CCL's efforts and proud of their accomplishments.

"Nobody deals with Congress about climate change more than we do," she said.


* Click here to learn about tonight's presentation and meeting.

** See details on Carbon Fee and Dividend on the CCL Web site.

*** Click here to see job statistics.

**** Read about the Climate Solutions Caucus here.

***** Do a search for Keweenaw Climate Community in our upper left corner of Keweenaw Now to see our articles on the KCC Climate Cafés.

****** Click here to read the Republican House Climate Resolution. See also the May 19, 2017, New York Times Opinion article on CCL, "Cracking Washington’s Gridlock to Save the Planet."