By Jean Comstock
Volunteer with St. Paul 350 along with the MN350 Communications Team and Transportation Team

You flip the switch. The light comes on. What does a simple action like that have to do with a great big idea like energy democracy?

Let’s start with energy democracy. At its simplest, energy democracy occurs when the people who use energy are the people who make decisions about it—where it comes from, how it’s distributed, and who gets the financial benefits versus who takes the risks. In short, it provides everyone access to sufficient and affordable energy that is renewable and supports global resiliency.

But to make the transition to this powerful goal, we need to ask basic questions:

Where does our energy come from? Whether turning on the lights or heating our homes during the winter, we need energy every day. But many of us don’t really understand how the whole process works.

Why does that matter to you? You pay for energy. You deal with the polluting effects of fossil fuel extraction and processing. Yet most of us have no choice in how we get our energy.

What can we do about it? Communities across the nation, across the world, are working to make our energy 100% clean and renewable, to stop the use of fossil fuels, and to make energy easily available to the marginalized.

To answer these questions and more, St. Paul 350 is hosting ED Talks, a series of talks to familiarize us with and prepare us for working toward energy democracy. These talks are live-streamed from the St. Paul 350 Facebook page and recordings made available there for later viewing.

Our next talk is Understanding the Power Dynamics of our Energy System, June 1 at 7pm. Join remotely by signing up on the MN350 event page.

In this ED Talk, Alice Madden from Community Power will lead us in a quick and dirty — pun intended — overview of where Minnesota’s  energy comes from, how it gets to us, and some of the built-in economic and political incentives of the system that we all depend on. Who decides? Who benefits? Who bears the risk? And how might we reimagine and take back control of our energy future?

Energy has always been the focus of St. Paul 350. This grassroots organization was officially recognized in April of last year, having met for many months before that as St. Paul Climate Justice.

As stated in our mission statement, we are “residents who are committed to ending the fossil fuel pollution that is damaging Saint Paul communities and our climate, to speeding the transition to clean energy, and to creating a just and healthy future for all.”

One of our actions toward this goal has been to closely monitor and offer extensive feedback on Xcel Energy’s proposed Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). We’re watching for the updated plan to be released June 30 and using this time to learn more about how we can respond and advocate for true energy democracy.

In coming talks, we’ll discover more about energy solutions, economic solutions, and community-based solutions. The path to energy democracy starts locally and must also address climate justice and workers’ rights. To make progress, we have to understand all of these issues.

So join us: Check the MN350 events page or the St. Paul 350 Facebook events page often. Make a difference with us!

Jean Comstock is a volunteer with St. Paul 350 along with the MN350 Communications Team and Transportation Team.