Environmental Justice Leaders, Energy Analysts and Labor Reps Release Equitable Grid Principles

Published May 2, 2023

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WASHINGTON (May 2, 2023)—A group of community and environmental justice leaders, electric grid analysts, and labor representatives today released new “Equitable Grid Principles” intended to guide electric grid infrastructure decision-making in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) region.

“The clean energy revolution is an exciting opportunity to transform an electricity system that has burdened and harmed communities of color, Indigenous Peoples, and low-income communities for over a century,” said Colin Byers, senior campaign coordinator at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). “As stakeholders work to get renewable energy online quickly, it’s key that equity and justice are front and center. If done correctly, the transition to 100% renewable energy could dramatically improve the quality of life for generations to come.” The principles provide guidance to grid infrastructure stakeholders for equitable transmission planning, the public utility commission processes, and other grid decision-making processes. When implemented, the principles will help improve health, create good local jobs, provide financial benefits, and avoid placing additional burdens on communities already impacted by environmental health hazards.

“Developing the Equitable Grid Principles was an opportunity to begin dismantling the barriers between communities and the decision-making process of our current electricity transmission infrastructure,” said Yvonne Cappel-Vickery, clean energy grid organizer at Alliance for Affordable Energy. “All of the solutions have yet to be discovered. Still, we hope the principles will help ensure the development of a 21st-century electric grid that does not repeat the same disenfranchisement of communities as our current electricity infrastructure. The Alliance for Affordable Energy looks forward to encouraging the use of the Equitable Grid Principles with partners and decisionmakers as we continue to work towards a transition to an affordable, decarbonized energy future.”

The Equitable Grid Principles include:

  1. Indigenous Rights. All equitable grid planning processes must engage with affected Indigenous Peoples and communities from the earliest stages.
  2. Accountable Decisionmaking. Grid infrastructure decisionmaking should establish and utilize a robust accountability system.
  3. Accessibility and Procedural Justice. Electric grid decisionmaking bodies such as MISO and state utility commissions must be accessible to impacted communities and the public.
  4. Community Control and Governance. Grid infrastructure must be planned and implemented in collaboration with Black, Indigenous, and people of color; and frontline, low-income, and impacted communities using processes that support and encourage meaningful, broad-based, and community-based public participation, as well as community-driven development.
  5. Local Control and Value. Grid planning processes and their resulting grid investment decisions should seek to maximize the value of locally controlled clean electricity, energy efficiency, and demand response resources, such as mini-grids and energy storage systems.
  6. Prioritize Renewables and Energy Efficiency. Prioritize grid infrastructure that enables the retirement of coal, gas, and other polluting electricity facilities and supports clean, renewable power—including wind and solar—and energy efficiency.
  7. Justly Sourced. Sourcing of materials and development of grid infrastructure must be done in a manner that mitigates long-term destructive environmental and social impacts.
  8. Support Workers Rights and Protections. Workers engaged in modernizing our grid infrastructure should have access to safe, high-quality, well-paying jobs.
  9. Climate Resilient. Grid planning processes and investment decisions pertaining to them must address overall system resilience under a broad range of plausible scenarios, including historic extreme weather case studies.

The Principles were developed by The Equitable Grid Cohort, a group of representatives from Alliance for Affordable Energy, Clear RTO Path, CURE Minnesota, Communities Organizing Latino Power and Action, Cooperative Energy Futures, Environmental Justice Coalition, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Soulardarity, Taproot Earth, UCS and Vote Solar. The cohort met in New Orleans, Louisiana, in October 2022 to address the issue of unprecedented new transmission investments being made within MISO, with impacted communities’ ability to exert influence largely suppressed.

“Changes to the grid, including the build out of new transmission lines, will have largescale and uneven impacts on rural places and denizens,” said Maggie Schuppert, campaigns director at CURE Minnesota. Rather than thinking of rural people as barriers to be overcome, the Equitable Grid Principles help us think about how rural, Indigenous, and other impacted communities can be partners who see the benefits in a transformed energy landscape. It’s one way we can ensure an energy transition that is both rapid and just.”

The full "Equitable Grid Principles" report can be found here.