KFTC members continue to build New Power through the Power House workshops | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

KFTC members continue to build New Power through the Power House workshops

Since April of this year, KFTC members across eastern Kentucky have helped host energy efficiency workshops in their communities, as part of our ongoing Power House Project. The Power House Project builds collective power by educating communities about Eastern Kentucky’s energy landscape, how we can influence it, and ways that we can lower our bills immediately through do-it-yourself weatherization strategies.

Kentucky’s energy system is a “regulated monopoly,” in which each utility provider is guaranteed a monopoly over their service territory. This means that where you live determines where you get your energy–and how much you pay for it. Some Kentuckians are paying as much as 23% of their annual income for their electricity bills, which leads to difficult choices like living in discomfort during the winter and summer, or having less money to use on the other things that keep our families healthy and happy.

Kentucky's Electric Energy Burden

It is with this context in mind that members of the KFTC NET Committee drew up a free, 2-hour workshop that teaches participants about individual actions they can take to seal up their homes and lower their bills, and about the steps we can collectively take to demand better from our utilities, elected officials, and the Kentucky Public Service Commission. The workshops place particular emphasis on Kentucky’s rural electric cooperatives (RECs), which serve 35% of Kentucky residents and are beholden to the decisions of their member-owners (unlike investor-owned utilities like Kentucky Utilities or Kentucky Power).

Each workshop is tailored to the county it takes place in and the utilities that operate in it. Each participant receives a folder full of resources, including local maps of the county’s energy landscape and a free energy efficiency “kit” valued at $25, to help them get started on sealing up their home right away. Some include an extended segment on what’s possible with renewable energy in Kentucky.

As part of every workshop’s outreach strategy, members go door-knocking in neighborhoods where bills are high to invite people to the workshop–and to register them to vote or talk about the upcoming election. Many of the folks we’ve met through these workshops have in turn joined our local chapters, joined us in local voter registration efforts, and grown as member leaders. Several workshop participants have expressed outrage at the money our utilities funneled into killing rooftop solar last year, and have pledged to come lobbying with us in the next General Assembly if utilities attempt another attack on Kentucky’s solar industry.

Since the launch of the project, KFTC members have led eight workshops in Bath, Pulaski, Floyd, Robertson, Breathitt, Rowan, Laurel, and Wolfe counties. KFTC members and energy experts Chris Woolery and Rachel Norton have led the “Energy Efficiency 101” segments of five of these eight.

The workshop in London at the end of September was co-hosted by the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition. Cumberland chapter KFTC member Shawn Cowden reflected. [The workshop] was very informative, and I learned some simple tips to help save money on electricity.”

Shawn is excited to talk to his neighbors about pushing their electric cooperative Cumberland Valley Electric to offer the on-bill financing program How$mart, which allows member-owners to access high-return energy efficiency retrofits for their homes without any upfront cost. Only six of the sixteen eastern Kentucky co-ops currently offer How$mart, and one of the goals of the Power House project is to substantially increase participation in this program.

Member Collin Alexander of the Rowan County chapter was excited to attend the September Power House workshop in Morehead after attending CommonBound 2018, where he learned about the ownership he had over Grayson RECC as a co-op member-owner.

"For me, the Power House workshop was everything that KFTC means to me: [a] group of people from every walk of life coming together for the betterment of the community and their homes,” he reflected. “It is without a doubt that KFTC embraces individual activism and, when collaborated together with peers and colleagues across the commonwealth, garner a voice for individuals and the masses. Regardless of what you’re passionate about, KFTC embraces your passion and promotes better and more sustainable livelihoods for Kentucky folk.”

The ninth Power House workshop will be in Powell County on November 17 at 10 a.m., at the Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church in Stanton. To help bring one to your own community, contact Organizing Apprentice Nikita Perumal at [email protected] or (502) 554-6633.