When Greenpower launched four years ago, its mission was a straightforward one: Fighting climate change. With that clear goal – helping communities transition from fossil fuels in favor of local clean energy solutions – the group has mobilized significant change toward a greener Monterey Bay region.
Created as an initiative of the Santa Cruz-based nonprofit Romero Institute, Greenpower launched into its first campaign by focusing on public education and community organizing. That initial campaign was tied to the launch of Monterey Bay Community Power, a Community Choice Energy (CCE) program that put energy into the hands of local communities. To mobilize support, Greenpower officials went door to door to educate residents and partnered with local community groups, including the Catholic church, to create a grassroots movement in primarily Spanish-language communities.
Over a two-year span, Greenpower met with close to 20,000 parishioners on the issue of climate change, collected 6,000 letters, helped generate several thousand emails to elected officials and helped mobilize more than 400 community members to attend council meetings, all in support of Monterey Bay Community Power, while also reaching out to elected representatives to help them fully understand local energy options. Those actions, says Greenpower Director Ben Eichert, ultimately resulted in the adoption of the Monterey Bay Community Power to provide locally-controlled carbon-free and renewable electricity to residents and businesses throughout Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties. Since then, parts of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties have embraced the community choice model.
“Really, it’s about engagement with the community around issues of climate change at all levels, from activists to business leaders to elected representatives,” said Eichert.
Inspired by Pope Francis’ climate treatise on the moral obligation to fight climate change and its partnership with Greenpower, the Catholic Diocese of Monterey sought the nonprofit’s guidance in greening its parishes and schools. So far, 18 parishes and schools in the diocese have enacted eco-friendly measures, with more coming online in the next year. Greenpower’s role, says Eichert, has been “to bring together the partnerships and resources, equip stakeholders with the tools they need to figure out what they want to do and help them understand their options.”
“Part of what we’re doing is really trying to inspire,” says Eichert. “When we work with a business or nonprofit, we are choosing projects that we think have the ability to motivate others.”
The San Benito Health Foundation was such a project. MBEP member San Benito Health Foundation was already committed to making a bold change, but Greenpower helped it fully understand all its options and choose those best suited to its needs and goals. With Greenpower’s support, the Hollister-based clinic in August 2019 became the first healthcare facility in the state to run on its own zero-carbon microgrid.
“We chose it as a project to do because of its ability to show people what’s possible,” said Eichert. “Part of what we do is when we are working with someone, we’re actively trying to inspire them to take bold action.” Creating public awareness around those projects – through the making of a video, a ribbon-cutting ceremony that attracts news coverage, and other educational efforts – are essential steps to increase public awareness.
Greenpower continues to work with established organizations, local businesses, and the agricultural communities to take them solar and improve their energy efficiency.
“On the issue of climate change, the scholarship and the science is clear: We’re facing a crisis,” says Eichert. “The technology to do something about it is accessible, but what’s missing is the political will. Our mission is to help create the will necessary for communities to make that transition.”