With Keisha Lance Bottoms claiming victory and Mary Norwood calling for a recount, it might be a while before we know for sure who will become Atlanta’s next mayor.

But throughout the campaign, it’s been heartening to hear both candidates support the idea of Atlanta moving to 100 percent renewable energy.

This spring, both women — both Atlanta City Council members — voted for a resolution that talked about joining the worldwide push for clean energy in a way that ensures the benefits flow to all Atlantans, including low-income and marginalized communities. And, on the campaign trail, both candidates frequently took the opportunity to use the word “equity.”

That’s music to our ears at the Partnership for Southern Equity (PSE). But we want to make sure that persuasive speech is followed by concrete actions.

In these “us vs. them” times, it’s important to remember that equity is not a zero-sum game. Rather, it’s about expanding opportunity in ways that benefit all Atlantans. When all people have access to what they need to thrive, our community works as it should.

Atlanta can be a leader in a renewable energy wave that’s sweeping the country and the planet.

Last year, more than 60 percent of the new utility-scale generating capacity installed across the country was solar or wind. And worldwide, more renewable energy generation was installed than fossil generation, for the second year in a row. There is serious money to be made in advanced energy.

The question is this: who will reap the benefits from the transition to clean energy?  Will all the bene-fits flow to established utilities and corporations with deep pockets? Or will the everyday people of Atlanta get a piece of the pie, through local jobs, distributed energy ownership opportunities, and local economic growth?

Atlanta’s efforts to move towards being a 100 percent renewable city offer a unique opportunity to address some of our city’s persistent inequities.

Even as our overall economy thrives, Atlanta has the third-largest income gap in the nation. The median income for black households is less than $27,000, while the median income for white households is almost $85,000.

Embracing clean energy can open up opportunities for vulnerable communities in the form of work-force development and clean-energy jobs with livable wages. It’s also important to lower regulatory barriers to entry for entrepreneurship and ownership so that everyone has an opportunity to participate in the growing green economy.

If we do this right, once-marginalized people can participate and prosper in the life of a more sustainable city, to the benefit of all.

Energy equity means a young person growing up poor in Atlanta would have access to training programs where he or she could learn how to weatherproof homes or install and service solar panels. It means local businesses springing up to install and maintain clean energy systems.

It means families, schools, and churches saving money on their energy bills, and even selling extra energy they generate back to the grid. And it means cleaner air for all Atlantans, and better health and lower medical costs, as well.

This is the vision we at the Partnership for Southern Equity hope the next mayor of Atlanta will embrace. May the candidate who will work most effectively to make Atlan-ta a better, more equitable city win the race.

Nathaniel Smith is the founder and chief equity officer of the Partnership for Southern Equity, a non-profit organization that advocates for policies and actions that promote equity and shared prosperity in metropolitan Atlanta.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.