RUN-GJC, a collaborative of nine organizations dedicated to environmental justice and energy democracy, announced today that it has been awarded two $75,000 grants by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. RUN, the technical team organized to support Resilient Urban Neighborhoods, joined forces with GJC, the Green Justice Coalition with social organizing expertise, to explore the idea of reliable, renewable energy in low-income communities in the form of microgrids. Together, the group will use the funds to work with the communities in Chelsea and Chinatown in Boston to generate interest and conduct a feasibility assessment.
“RUN-GJC is thrilled to be a recipient of 2 MassCEC community microgrid feasibility assessment grants totaling $150,000. The grants will fund the work necessary to both conduct the technical analysis and to mobilize community members in Chelsea and Boston’s Chinatown, the proposed sites for the microgrids,” said Dave Dayton, founder of the RUN team.
Over the next few months, community organizers from GreenRoots Chelsea and the Chinese Progressive Association will conduct important engagement work to hear what benefits the neighborhoods hope to derive from microgrids and to explain how they might work.
Microgrids present an exciting opportunity to aid in grid modernization. The existing electricity grid is strained and completing infrastructure upgrades is a lengthy and expensive process. Furthermore, the costs associated with these upgrades are passed on to ratepayers in their utility bills. Microgrids offer reliability, which is crucial when considering how increasingly disruptive weather from climate change puts communities in jeopardy. They could also preclude the need for certain big infrastructure projects, saving both money and community vitality. And they offer a tool for increased energy democracy and local control.
The RUN-GJC microgrid concept is unique from other, more traditional microgrids. It starts with community leadership in low-to moderate income neighborhoods, which are frequently more vulnerable in emergencies. It seeks to involve the constituents to give them a voice in how they receive their energy. Beyond resilience, this neighborhood-focused model provides a basis for local economic development in the form of clean energy jobs, and healthier homes due to cleaner air. The second reason is that this community-focused microgrid does not require buildings to be physically connected as is often the case with other microgrids. Using “virtual hardening,” the microgrid deploys distributed energy resources that pay for themselves through savings and new revenues. In this instance, the distributed energy resources in question are battery storage, solar panels, energy efficiency, and new technologies in lighting, electric vehicles, and controls, which can capture the value of waste and grid-service markets for local small businesses.
RUN-GJC has nine member organizations. RUN, which stands for Resilient Urban Neighborhoods, was formed with the idea that resilience solutions, which are are within reach of wealthier businesses, individuals, and cities, should be affordable in any community. The members of RUN make up the technical team, including representatives from Climable.org, Clean Energy Solutions, Inc., Peregrine Energy Group, Climate Action Business Association, and Boston Community Capital. GJC, the Green Justice Coalition, is a coalition of over 40 community organizations, environmental groups, and labor unions in Massachusetts that collaborate on environmental justice issues. The GJC is convened by Community Labor United and its representatives involved in the microgrid initiative are Clean Water Action, GreenRoots Chelsea, and the Chinese Progressive Association.
The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) is dedicated to growing the state’s clean energy economy while helping to meet the Commonwealth’s clean energy, climate and economic development goals. Since its inception in 2009, MassCEC has helped clean energy companies grow, supported municipal clean energy projects, and invested in residential and commercial renewable energy installations creating a robust marketplace for innovative clean technology companies and service providers. MassCEC constructed and operates the Wind Technology Testing Center and the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal. Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton chairs MassCEC’s board of directors.