An open letter to Exelon CEO Chris Crane
As you likely remember, at the April 2019 Exelon Shareholder Meeting, members of the Power Local Green Jobs Campaign told you that we are under the moral weight of the climate crisis, which has killed people and will continue to kill hundreds of millions of people. We spoke about how climate catastrophe will compound existing racial and economic inequality, which as people of faith, we feel morally bound to fight. In fact, it was to address these interrelated crises that we began this campaign four years ago to challenge our electric utility, PECO, to use its considerable power in southeastern Pennsylvania to spur a just, solar energy transition in our region.
Since launching this campaign, Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) and Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild (POWER) leaders have had seven meetings with PECO executives — including joining two solar stakeholder collaboratives that PECO called only after pressure from our campaign. We’ve walked 100 miles through PECO’s service area to raise awareness of these issues. We’ve held over 70 faithful actions across PECO’s service territory. Twenty-seven of us have been arrested for expressing our moral vision on PECO property.
Still, PECO has failed to provide a real vision for change, while continuing to extract a million dollars a day from our communities. It is an embarrassment to our region that PECO procures only half of 1% of its electricity from solar, the state minimum. It should be an embarrassment to Exelon, as well.
That is why we came to Exelon’s Annual General Meeting in April to address PECO’s parent company directly. We hoped we had reached your heart, Chris. We hoped you felt the weight of the reality of climate catastrophe and the urgency of a just transition, when at that meeting you publicly offered to meet with us personally. We did not ask for a meeting with you; you offered to meet with us.
It would have been good to learn from you what kind of leadership we can expect from the CEO of one of the world’s largest energy corporations, one that describes itself as “embracing change to power cleaner, stronger, connected communities.” We waited three months for our meeting with you and participated in two insisted-upon meetings with PECO executives in the interim. On both occasions, including the most recent meeting with PECO CEO Mike Innocenzo, we were offered Powerpoint slides on why PECO cannot take the bold leadership that it likes to claim in advertisements. Rather than rising to meet the moral urgency of climate change, PECO repeatedly and deliberately obfuscated our demands and misrepresented the costs. PECO Executives repeated inflated, ridiculous numbers based on the incorrect premise that we are demanding a plan that only includes rooftop solar within the city of Philadelphia. Despite lip service to local jobs and addressing climate change, we did not see evidence of visionary leadership or forward-thinking planning on PECO’s part. So, we chose to act on this discouraging evidence, with two EQAT volunteers hanging a banner from PECO’s roof that asked, “Climate is changing. Why isn’t PECO?”
PECO was upset by our banner drop on July 17, and canceled the meeting you had committed to. We can understand that frustration. We’ve been frustrated with the fact that PECO has failed to be the leader we need it to be on climate change, and to come up with a plan for — or even a commitment to — a just and local solar transition for our region. During the four years of our campaign, extreme weather events have increased in our region and around the world. Scientific warnings have become more dire, and the window for getting off fossil fuels has narrowed. The refinery in our city has exploded, and health, disproportionately in black and brown communities, has been threatened every day due to extreme weather and air pollution. And PECO has still offered more excuses than action.
Perhaps PECO has shared with you the list of pro-solar actions it has taken in the last few years. While heartened to see these modest steps, we consider it proof that PECO only acts when pressured, which is why we plan to continue building pressure until we see a plan commensurate with the moral crisis we face.
To truly lead and move dramatically toward a just and livable future, POWER and EQAT call on PECO to:
- Dramatically increase the purchase of solar power so that 20% of PECO's electricity comes from solar by 2025.
- Ensure all 20% of PECO's solar power is produced locally with a priority towards both community-owned distributed solar and ownership by low-income communities in PECO's whole service area (not just Philadelphia).
- Prioritize installation by local workers paid livable wages, especially from high unemployment areas in its service area.
- Find the political will to push for community solar* in Pennsylvania, as well as any other legislation and regulation that ease the way to a just solar transition.
*NOTE: Community solar with equity — the current community solar bill backed by PECO in Harrisburg does not prioritize the demands laid out in point 2 — community-owned distributed solar and ownership by low-income communities within PECO’s service area.
We know there are many steps PECO can take starting today that would indicate it's on a path to 20% local solar by 2025. For example, it could actively lobby Harrisburg to clear all barriers to the expansion of community-owned distributive solar. PECO could commit to prioritizing local, small-scale solar projects like rooftop solar, when buying solar mandated by the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards. PECO could also draft a real plan for what it will take to make a just renewable energy transition for our region in a way that creates thousands of local jobs and doesn’t pass off costs to ratepayers. Other utilities have already begun to do this.
Though PECO chose to cancel the meeting you publicly committed to us, we showed up on Tuesday, July 23rd for our meeting. As people of faith, we take our commitments seriously, as do our allies in Philadelphia. We will act until we see evidence that PECO and Exelon will, too.
In March 2020, PECO has an opportunity to draft a community-informed plan that would get us to 20% local solar by 2025 when it submits its Default Service Program to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. We hope to see a commitment from PECO this March, and that you will use your powerful position to make PECO a utility that we can all be proud of.
Earth Quaker Action Team
Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild