I was marching down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol yelling things like, “Hey hey, ho ho, dirty coal has got to go,” with thousands of students like me. And I never do those things. I am truly not the rowdy protesting kind of person, but Power Shift has this ability to awaken your passion and empower you.
I had the amazing chance to organize a group of 12 students from Mizzou to attend this youth-led clean energy conference in Washington, D.C., called Power Shift. The entire state of Missouri sent over 160 people to the weekend-long conference and we spent a lot of time with each other, strengthening bonds between our campuses.
I was calling Power Shift a clean energy conference before I went, but now I see it as much more than that. It was more like a summit of concerned youth. We were concerned about social and environmental justice, about clean air and clean water, and about climate change. It was about creating jobs, and it was about making life better for all. Clean energy just happens to be one of the best ways to achieve all of these things.
After seeing Al Gore, Van Jones, Bill McKibben and the other inspiring speakers I came away feeling confident in the green movement. I am especially proud of what my generation is doing to get us there.
Personally, I’m fascinated with the economics and financing of green initiatives. So I came away with three great ideas for Missouri. First, green revolving funds that pay for energy efficiency projects have been shown to give returns on investment of over 30 percent (way better than your money market account). It works like this: after completing a project, instead of paying a higher energy bill, you put that money back into the fund and then you have even more funds for your next project. This is a great idea for cities, schools, or businesses.
The second idea I loved came from a group called WeatherizeDC. They canvass neighborhoods and let people know about savings that come from weatherizing their homes. Then they connect homeowners with vetted contractors who hire long-term employees from high-poverty neighborhoods who need jobs the most. WeatherizeDC increases business for these contracting companies and makes the process easy and reliable for consumers.
The third financing idea I found most interesting was the Solar Mosaic project. In this endeavour, communities come together to purchase solar power. They buy a small share of the solar panels to be installed on a school (or local business, non-profit, etc.). Then that school buys the electricity from the people who financed the solar panels until they are paid back in full. After people are paid back, the payments for electricity go into funding for the next project.
Power Shift was a really empowering experience for me, as a young person and as a part of the next generation of leaders. I learned about the practicalities of investing in clean energy and energy efficiency, but the excitement you get from 10,000 people working for the same things as you was the most amazing feeling. Everyone should be so lucky to attend Power Shift, and the rest of the world should feel better knowing we have this new generation of skilled leaders.