Empowering Communities: People and Cultural Value

Large energy buyers procured record-breaking amounts of renewable energy in 2020 increasingly taking into consideration impacts beyond climate action, like intentionally building strong relationships with communities to create mutually beneficial advantages where a project is located. Local communities that directly experience the impact of climate challenges often have vital input that should be considered as companies pursue renewable energy.

The REBA Institute contributed to a first-of-its-kind virtual listening tour, the Working Wisdom series, in partnership with Groundswell to provide community leaders the platform to connect with large energy buyers . REBA members participated in the four-part series to lay the foundation for building authentic relationships to support equitable renewable energy projects that benefit all parties the project touches.

Each session provided a space for individuals involved in the renewable energy procurement process to hear from community leaders who highlighted the power of culture and traditional knowledge in the engagement process, and how important it is when creating and sustaining healthy relationships. Key knowledge passed included advice and learnings:

  • Local indigenous and communities of color face the greatest challenges to energy access and reliability resulting in disproportionately increased vulnerability to the climate crises.
  • Each community is distinct in nature and history, and their values are subsequently diverse. Alignment of community values and corporate values should be at the forefront of communications and project initiatives.
  • Renewable energy provides an opportunity for communities to physically and culturally protect the generations of today and tomorrow.
  • Equitable access to renewable energy resources emancipates communities from energy burdens creating a clear pathway towards energy sovereignty. Renewable energy provides an opportunity for communities to protect their land, resources, and culture for future generations while reducing/removing the energy burdens and creating a path to energy sovereignty.

When partnering with a community on a renewable energy project, large energy buyers are encouraged to engage the community early in the procurement process, identify a community champion to guide the process take time to listen to as many community members as possible, and above all else be patient.

To read more about insights from each of the sessions, visit the community solar partner organization Groundswell. To learn more about how to get involved with community engagement and co-benefit creation visit the REBA’s Institute’s Beyond the Megawatt.

The next Empowering Communities blog focuses on the value of recognizing a community’s place-based priorities and opportunities.