Kentuckians, including many citizens and entrepreneurs from Eastern Kentucky demonstrated that they are ready for the benefits that clean energy will bring to Kentucky by attending a conference sponsored by the recently-formed Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance on the topic.
The first-ever Kentucky Clean Energy Summit, brought 150 people together, including small business owners, housing groups, low-income advocacy organizations, legislators, energy experts, and concerned citizens.
During the day, summit speakers and attendees explored:
o Policies that would increase use of energy efficiency and renewable energy in Kentucky
o The benefits of these policies and why Kentucky should pass these now
o Success stories from nearby states, including Ohio
o The experiences of KySEA member organizations including small businesses and affordable housing providers that are utilizing energy efficiency and renewable energy today
The Clean Energy Opportunity Act, recently filed by Representative Mary Lou Marzian in the 2011 Kentucky General Assembly and supported by KySEA, is a comprehensive clean energy bill that would set clean energy goals for Kentucky and provide incentives for clean energy businesses. Summit participants got a first look at what’s in the bill.
Carmen Stine and Shari Bivelacque of Alternative Energies Kentucky, a new business in Danville that manufactures solar panels, said starting a clean energy business in a state where there are no incentives or guidelines has been a challenge. Many of their clients are outside Kentucky.
“How do you sell to people who have no incentives to improve their situation and their carbon footprint?” said Stine.
“If there’s a financial incentive, then they start to listen,” said Bivelacque.
Getting state leaders on board will be key, Bivelacque said. “For us to get anywhere with this, it’s going to be all about education,” she said.
And jobs, according to Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, who sponsors the Clean Energy Opportunity Act, House Bill 239. “I think the job piece is what’s so important to effect policy change in Frankfort,” Marzian said.
Andy McDonald of Kentucky Solar Partnership said Kentucky needs to take a long-term view. “We really need long-term stable policies,” McDonald said. “There’s no point in getting trained if there’s not going to be jobs.”
David Brown Kinloch, who with his partners purchased and restored the Mother Ann Lee Hydroelectric Station on the Kentucky River, echoed the view that Kentucky needs to make a long-term investment in clean energy. In addition to his work in hydro power, Kinloch has researched wind power in Kentucky. “It’s a political problem, not a technical problem, why there isn’t wind in Kentucky,” he said.
Representatives of the Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises (FAHE), Frontier Housing, Home Energy Partners and the Metropolitan Housing Coalition expressed their desire to see new policies that protect home owners, renters and low-income families from rising energy costs.
“I’ve heard a lot today about energy efficiency as a resource, and I really like that term,” said Vonda Poyner of FAHE, a regional nonprofit based in Berea that provides access to capital that creates housing and promotes community development.