In 2015, after forcing PNC Bank to stop financing mountaintop removal coal mining, EQAT turned our attention to the fact that Pennsylvania is lagging massively behind in solar jobs. We also know that PECO’s electricity is fueling rapid climate change which will be especially harmful to marginalized communities. So we launched a solutions-oriented economic justice campaign, which we called “Power Local Green Jobs.”
What if PECO became a solar-jobs creator? What if those jobs were developed in communities of color and areas of deep unemployment? In our research, we learned that local solar energy could provide well over 20% of our region’s needs, and that getting there could create thousands of new jobs. Seeing that PECO has been blocking and delaying solar for years, our new campaign became clear: get PECO to commit to 20% local solar by 2025, built first in the neighborhoods with greatest need.
EQAT began monthly actions at the company headquarters in September 2015, and we were soon joined by POWER, then later Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and the campaign began spreading across the region.
Our region has both opportunity- some of the best counties for solar in the state- and need. Our area includes large and deeply neglected African American neighborhoods, disinvested former industrial zones, a growing immigrant workforce, and working class neighborhoods of all races. With local solar, workers can earn good wages and communities can produce and sell their own power. We all will see improvements in public health and guard against the looming devastation of climate change.
We had our first breakthrough in 2016, when PECO responded to pressure by convening a solar stakeholder collaborative. Since then, our actions have continually pushed PECO into incremental steps, including improving solar customer service and awarding a solar jobs training grant. At a solar industry gathering in 2020 PECO was proud(!) to announce it was exploring purchasing about 0.25% of its power from local solar.
Unfortunately, behind the scenes PECO is fighting hard against solar. The corporation has been blocking progress on community solar in PA, pushing to further undervalue solar net-metering, and standing in the way of expanding PA’s portfolio of renewable energy.
We can’t let this continue.
Our non-violent protests have grown across PECO’s footprint. In 2017 we walked 100 miles through the five counties of PECO’s territory for solar jobs, joined in the end by over 200 protesters.
In 2018 and 2019 peaceful activists blocked PECO’s dirty business-as-usual and were arrested calling for green jobs in Philadelphia and Phoenixville. Others bravely spoke up at shareholder meetings and confronted PECO and Exelon executives. We dropped a four-story banner from PECO’s roof because “Climate is changing. Why isn’t PECO?”