In her inspiring new book, Rural Renaissance, social entrepreneur, author and clean energy non-profit CEO Michelle Moore offers a vision of thriving rural communities where clean power is the spark that leads to greater investment, vitality, and equity. Additionally, Moore argues that we have everything we need in hand today to make this vision a reality.
In this wide-ranging discussion with Freeing Energy host Bill Nussey, Moore breaks down the key elements that will shape a rural renaissance. Learn how the work being done by Groundswell, the non-profit she leads, is helping to develop community power by connecting solar and energy efficiency with economic development, affordability, and quality of life. Plus, Moore shares the practical, value-driven steps each of us can take to help accelerate this transition.
Here are some of the highlights from their discussion…
“It was all of the individuals who really brought their passion and their sense of purpose to their work every day. And they were really the heroes of the green building movement and still are today because LEED would be nothing but a checklist on a piece of paper if it weren’t for the people who committed to make sustainability in the built environment a fundamental part of their work. Whether they were the architect or the GC, or the men and women who are providing maintenance services to buildings once they’re constructed. That’s where the green building movement begins. And that’s where it is sustained.”
“You know, I hope that the rural Renaissance will be an inspiration and a how-to guide that people can carry with them to create clean energy futures in their hometown… in the new place they call home, or in the smaller places that so often really have our hearts, no matter where it is we call home.”
“… in America, we have local energy futures because energy policy and energy markets are an example of federalism at work. There is no central place that all the decisions are made. And I find that to be not only very empowering for local communities, to be able to align their energy systems with their needs, but it’s also so beautifully aligned with what clean energy technology enables us to do.”
You can also listen to this podcast and others in our series on these platforms:
Check out these links to learn more
Michelle Moore’s Book: Rural Renaissance (Use Promo Code “Rural” for 20% off)
US Green Building Council LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design)
Generation180, September 2022: Study on Solar in K-12 Schools in the US
NYTimes Article: Facing Budget Shortfalls, These Schools Are Turning to the Sun
Well, hello everybody in Freeing Energy World. This is Bill Nussey, your host today. We have another incredibly interesting and particularly inspiring guest today. Our guest today grew up in a rural Georgia textile mill town, LaGrange. A small struggling town she wanted to escape from, and she did. But as fate would have it, her passion for community and equity and a clean energy future has led her full circle back to the small town life.
Michelle Moore is the CEO of Groundswell, a national nonprofit helping rural communities across America chart a new course to a more sustainable, resilient, and equitable energy future through community power, both literally and figuratively. But her journey started long before Groundswell. Among other roles, Michelle was appointed by President Obama to lead the Federal Sustainability Policy and programs across all US Government departments and agencies. Wow. Michelle was a senior executive with the US Green Building Council, where she championed the LEED building standard. We’ll touch on that a lot more. Certainly, all of you have heard about it.
Probably, the least famous thing that’s ever happened to Michelle in Groundswell is she has been mentioned in my book and has been mentioned on our website as one of the top social impact firms for quite a few years. But most recently, and the thing that triggered us to jump on this call today, was she published a truly inspiring and practical guide for anyone with a passion for helping ignite a change in our energy future.
Her book is called Rural Renaissance: Revitalizing America’s Hometowns through Clean Power. We’ll be digging into this book quite a bit today. By the way, if that isn’t enough, in April 2021, President Biden nominated Michelle to be appointed to the Board of the Tennessee Valley Authority, which is the nation’s largest public utility. So here we are, in the Fall of 2022, and that nomination is still awaiting US Senator approval. But perhaps, by the time you listen to this or later this year, it will become formal.
Wow. That’s just a whole mouthful, and no one wants to listen to me, so I just want to bring on this amazing, inspiring leader, Michelle. Thank you for joining us today and welcome to the Freeing Energy Podcast.
Thank you so much, Bill. It’s a blessing to be with you today, and I am so excited about our conversation.
We have so much to cover, Michelle. I want to start with something that seems to have been a real inspiration for you in your life. This springs from your connection that you had with Ray Anderson, who is one of the very early and very inspiring visionaries behind industrial ecology and sustainability and environmental issues for large corporations. He also happened to have played an important role in communities surrounding LaGrange, where you grew up. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about Ray and his work and how it had an impact upon you?
Ray C. Anderson was the founder of Interface Inc., and Interface in the building world is famous for bringing carpet tile technology to America. If you’re like me, and you’ve worked in the carpet industry, you’ve worked in the building industry, you see Interface all over the place. If you’re not from the carpenter building industry, you probably barely notice what’s on the floor. But Ray C. Anderson’s vision for sustainability revolutionized that whole sector, helped to transform my hometown, and really put a stake in the ground that created the Green Building Movement in the US, and that helped to propagate it all over the world.
I got to know Ray when I went to work for Interface in the mid-1990s. Bill, as you shared when you were introducing me, I got to say y’all, it was about my worst nightmare to end up back in my hometown after going off for my fancy graduate degree, but that’s exactly where I ended up. Thank God, it was working as the director of eBusiness, if that doesn’t date me, at Interface. I joined the company about six months after what Ray always called, “The spear in his chest.” He read a book by Paul Hawken, called The Ecology of Commerce, that really convicted him about the impact that his company, Interface, was having on the world. He set out to make Interface the world’s first sustainable, and ultimately envisioned it becoming a restorative corporation.
This was the mid-1990s. He was the first leader to do that of a public company. There was tremendous skepticism. He faced a whole lot of push back. But he was such a courageous innovator, and he led the company and the community and Interface’s workers, and ultimately a whole sector of the global industry in buildings forward towards a more sustainable future together.
I first really got exposed to Ray when he did a TED Talk many years ago. TED is an amazing platform, and his speech was one of the most impactful ones for me that led me into my ultimate journey into sustainability and clean energy.
I do want to share one thing you wrote when you were at the White House, which I think is really cool, “As a young person who’d always been passionate about the environment, but didn’t know how to connect it with my profession, seeing how Ray’s vision transformed a company from the inside showed me how to marry profit with purpose.”
It’s like you said, he was one of the first people in the United States to stand up, and he was from Georgia. No one could ignore this man from an old industry making a statement about the future of the world. It’s amazing. For everyone who’s listening to this, sometimes, when everyone thinks you’re crazy, standing up and boldly proclaiming what you want to do can have lasting effects that you can’t even imagine. It’s amazing what Ray did for you, Michelle, and for so many other people.
And I’m so grateful for that. There’s a whole host of Interface alumni out there who were transformed by that experience working with Ray and working with that company who’ve taken those ideas into new places and spaces as well. Because as you say, Ray was not only a very inspiring leader, and one who was courageous, innovative, and faced up to what was sometimes something between opposition and ridicule, early on in his journey, and he kept it moving. He always did it in an intensely practical way as well.
Visionary. But you get to the vision by putting one foot in front of the other. One step at a time. As Ray always said, “You change the world one mind at the time.” You change one mind at the time. That faithfulness and that perseverance and just grit that Ray Anderson has always been an inspiration for me too.
Your journey has taken you to some very important work. Before your time in the Obama administration, you worked for the US Green Building Council and LEED. I assume most of the folks who listen in are familiar with LEED, but just to make sure, the US Green Building Council has, with your help, evolved to one of the most important sets of design guidelines and standards and principles for energy efficiency and environmental design for all kinds of commercial buildings. The LEED’s building certification is kind of the gold standard for commercial design today.
How did that experience at the council shape your thinking? How did your vision manifest itself and the journey towards making LEED so ubiquitous?
I was very fortunate to be at the US Green Building Council during a time when sustainability was enjoying an extraordinary resurgence. It was late 1990s, early 2000s. The federal government at that time was not leading on sustainability and climate. It was doing some steady work but wasn’t exactly out in front, boldly carrying us into the future. And the private sector was. There was so much interest and excitement about sustainability, how we could live greener lives, how leading companies could help carry us forward into a future where our climate remained healthy.
And there I was at the USGBC, helping to create a path. My time there really taught me two things. Number one, you got to be able to measure your progress. You got to keep score. In fact, I would say you’re not even playing the game if you’re not keeping score, and LEED was a way to do that. In an extraordinarily complex industry like building design and construction… and I got to say, any of you all out there who’ve ever even renovated your bathroom, it takes a small army of people to construct even something pretty small and humble. So imagine doing that on a giant corporate campus or mixed use development. It takes a lot of coordination. LEED served as a Rosetta Stone, if you will, for a very large and diverse industry for how to define sustainability and to make continuous progress.
The other thing that I learned at USGBC is at the end of the day, it’s not about the product. It’s not about your LEED score. It’s really about the people. It was the hearts and minds of every single person who was a member of USGBC through their company who served on the volunteer committees that helped to define LEED and make sure that it was continuously raising the bar for what constituted leadership and sustainability for a very large global industry.
It was the people who came to Green Build. It was the LEED accredited professionals. It was all of the individuals who really brought their passion and their sense of purpose to their work every day. They were really the heroes of the Green Building Movement, and still are today because LEED would be nothing but a checklist on a piece of paper if it weren’t for the people who committed to make sustainability in the built environment a fundamental part of their work.
Michelle, I love the way that you’re framing this. It resonates so clearly. It’s so much not about a checklist and so much about the hearts and minds of people. Let’s keep going through some of your background because I think it’ll help people understand how all this comes together as they’re inspired by your words, and particularly by your point of view and your mission.
You earned a degree from Georgetown, that for many, would’ve led to a career in foreign service. What inspired you to pursue a more domestic policy path? I’m really curious; how did you end up at the White House?
I really wanted to work domestically. At that time, I was a rip old 21 years old, and I hadn’t even contemplated a career in sustainability at that point. I wanted to make sure that this new thing that we were going to be working with called the internet was put to good purpose in the communities that immediately surrounded me because how we work together at home is how we show up abroad too. My interest and my passion for using an innovative new technology, the internet, at that time, is a way to connect us in better, more purposeful ways is what led me to Interface. At the time, it wasn’t sustainability; it was developing Interface’s very first global website that put me on this path.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from talking to just world shaking, world changing folks like you, it’s that the journey is so rarely straight.
It makes sense in retrospect. The journey makes sense in retrospect, but as you’re going along the path, each step can be a little scary.
I love the opportunity when people earlier in their lives ask me, “What’s the secret of success?” And I said that, “You’ve never read a single book about any hero on any field of life that said, they showed up, they got a good degree and everything worked out.” The reason we read about the journey, the reason the journeys inspire us, is because they’re not the ones that you expect anything but easy success and accolades. It’s grit and hard work and change in the face of rivals and opposition as you say. And I think you’re just reaffirming this amazing journey that people who make a real difference almost inevitably have followed.
Absolutely. The one additional ingredient I would add too is just humility. Because every step of the way you have to have the humility to step back and say, “Okay, well, I thought this, but actually that. And I’m going to learn from that and I’m going to take that into my next step forward into the future.”
Michelle, I haven’t heard that from a lot of people, but it really resonates and I think it’s really worth contemplation because if you are going to get out in front and do things that haven’t been done before, you’re going to be wrong about some things. But that doesn’t mean your mission’s wrong. I’m kind of curious; how do you navigate the power of a vision that is not necessarily one that everyone adheres to early on with the ability to know sometimes that you’re going to be wrong? How do you balance that?
For me, it’s really two things. Number one, my work is grounded in my faith. I ask myself in the field I work in in energy and sustainability, really, how can I put to work the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself? When we think about that challenge, love your neighbor as yourself, a very simple statement, extraordinarily big command though. Who is our neighbor? It’s everyone. Where is our neighborhood? It’s everywhere.
The more you learn, the more you understand, the more you serve, the more you see. That advancement of knowledge, and on a good day, hopefully a little bit of wisdom too, just makes you aware of everything that you don’t know. And it just reminds us to be humble in how we come to the work. So, number one, I’m grounded in my faith.
Number two, I do the work from the perspective of the spirit of service. I guess when I was younger, when I was in my 20s, I was all filled with zeal for saving the world. Well, no one individual can save the world. From my faith perspective, God already saved the world; we’re just here to do our part. And so, how can we best serve every day? How can we serve in small ways and in big ways? As we were just discussing Bill, just to have the humility to say, I was wrong. Or I didn’t completely understand this. I need to improve how I’m coming into a conversation. I can improve how I serve. I can serve more. I can serve better. I can serve with more joy.
That really brings, I think, also joy to the work as well, because we’re not holding ourselves to some sort of impossible standard or some argumentative hardened stance about I’m right, you’re wrong. But thinking about our work with that kind of intellectual humility as well helps us to foster more unity too. I think the times that we’re in unity is something that is hard to come by, but incredibly precious.
I love that perspective. Thank you. Let’s take that forward into the project that was the spark that caused us to be on this discussion today.
It seems like many of us were struggling with this dramatic shift in lifestyles during the early days of COVID. We had no idea where the world would be in the years, and we had no idea what it meant even for the next day as the world was changing around as all the norms were getting assaulted. You decided to hole up in rural Virginia and write a book.
When COVID started, did you think this would take a couple of years? Did you think this was the journey? How did that transition from I’m going to go get away from the crazy everyday world and write a book, how did that happen and what did you expect to happen?
When I started the conversation with Island Press about writing Rural Renaissance, I had no idea that there was a global pandemic around the corner. When it struck, I thought to myself, “Well, here I am. It’ll be me and Sammy Pepys writing our plague diaries.” I had in the back of my mind Samuel Pepys, hollow for all those who remember our 10th grade English literature out there. I thought, “Okay, well here I am.” I’m in Midlothian, Virginia, which interestingly is also the side of the very first commercial coal mine in the United States from the 18th century. I thought, “Okay, here I am and I’m going to really dive in and explore this idea of how we could all use clean energy to help make our hometown places where everyone can thrive, where families can stay and build a future.”
And in finishing the book and looking back at what I imagine is probably a whole lot longer time holed up in our homes, holed up and isolated from one another than we might have thought it would’ve been back in March of 2020, there’s so many people who have been moving back to smaller places and seeking a little bit more space. I hope that Rural Renaissance will be an inspiration, hopefully, and a how to guide that people can carry with them to create clean energy futures in their hometown, in the new place they call home, or in the smaller places that so often really have our hearts no matter where it is we call home.
Throughout the book, you note that there’s really no single path to clean energy for the rural communities, but nonetheless, you make it all seem so doable and understandable. What I really, really liked about it is that at the center of it seems to be a genuine appreciation for the needs and the desires of the community. I think this is something I’d really like to hear you talk about because when I was journeying through Africa and looking at how these small off-grid systems worked and where they didn’t work, I kept hearing the same idea. You really have to listen to what the community is telling you and that’s the path forward.
Tell us a little bit about what it means for the rural communities in America and what are some of the examples that bring it to the surface?
In America, we have local energy futures because energy policy and energy markets are an example of federalism at work. There is no central place that all the decisions are made. I find that to be not only very empowering for local communities, we need to be able to align their energy systems with their needs, but it’s also so beautifully aligned with what clean energy technology enables us to do. We can finally move from this sort of gargantuan monolithic industrial energy landscape that we’ve inherited with giant belching power plants and giant transmission lines that no one likes to look at, and a bunch of stuff, a bunch of infrastructure that’s really just not at the scale of how we live to something that’s more local, whether that’s a windmill or a little local solar farm, energy storage at your home or at your business or at a community center. There are many ways that our energy systems can really now reflect our community priorities, whereas before we didn’t really have the technology to do that.
I think it’s important that all of us just take a moment to be grateful for that. Despite all the turbulence in the world when we’re talking about how we generate our energy or how we get it from place to place, that we are alive at a time when we can be a part of helping to guide this transformation in a way that our energy systems are better serving people, people as well as the planet.
And in that, we have an opportunity, as you’re saying, Bill, to really make our energy systems much more community driven, not just through consultation with communities, but from local communities standing up and saying this is what we want and we’re going to build it. One of the perspectives that I was really inspired by in writing Rural Renaissance is that we have these wonderful institutions to do that. We have more than 900 rural electric cooperative utilities and we have a couple of thousand public power utilities. These are utilities that are locally owned and controlled through locally elected boards or maybe locally elected city councils in the case of municipal and public power utilities. We have decision making that’s very close to the people too, and it gives us the ability to really begin where we need to, which is to look at the values that are underlying our energy systems
For us at the Freeing Energy Project, hearing Michelle’s inspiring story and the work her teams are doing is uplifting and gives us hope. There are really so many positive stories being woven into this amazing tapestry of transformation today, and we wanted to share yet another one.
Back in October of 2021, Wendy Philleo, CEO of Generation 180, was a guest on the Freeing Energy Podcast. She shared the incredible story of how her organization was helping school districts across the country realize the benefits of switching to clean energy. Just recently, Generation 180 published their annual report on the school program for 2022.
Generation 180 and its Solar for Schools program were also recently featured in a story in the New York Times. The article notes that, “Public schools are increasingly using savings from solar energy to upgrade facilities, help their communities and give teachers raises, often with no cost to taxpayers.” The Generation 180 report found that America’s schools are making progress on the switch to clean energy. Since 2015, the amount of solar installed at K through 12 schools has tripled, and the number of schools with solar has doubled. Numerous success stories are shared throughout the report.
For example, the Pittsburg California Unified School District, which is about 40 miles east of San Francisco, was historically known as the Black Diamond, a nod to the nearby coal resources that supported the town’s economy. However, Pittsburg’s reliance on coal is shifting, and the district is building a new reputation for the community as a leader in sustainability. Solar installations are helping the school district avoid energy costs of over $1 million per year, with lifetime cost savings of over 11 million.
We’ve provided links to the Generation 180 report and the New York Times article in the show notes for this episode on freeingenergy.com. We encourage you to explore this material and more information about Michelle Moore’s book and organization, Rural Renaissance and Groundswell. Don’t forget to like and subscribe to the Freeing Energy Podcast and share with your friends and colleagues.
Now let’s get back to Bill and Michelle for even more inspiration.
Today a large part of the country is powered by large publicly own utilities and gigantic centralized power plants, but you provide in the book a roadmap for navigating the crazy complex labyrinth of federal, state, local, small utilities, regulations everywhere. And this really shapes the journey as we move towards a more local energy future, more community-centered energy future.
Can you give us a few examples of how these rules and regulations help, or probably more often hinder, the transition to this local energy vision that you’re crafting in the book?
I think that the challenge of the maze and myriad of policies and regulations and administrative policies and all the things that you have to navigate when you’re talking about energy, and let’s not even mention the acronyms y’all, is it’s just complexity. And complexity takes time to untangle. It takes expertise. And it can be very intimidating if we’re thinking about, “Okay, how do we create local energy futures from the top down, or from the national level down to the local level?” But it’s a little bit more straightforward when we think about it from the local level, from the beginning.
We can understand what is our state utility market like? Is it regulated or deregulated? Are there solar incentives or clean energy incentives? Are there not? Also, what do we have in abundance at the local level? In some communities, do we have abundant solar incentives and a great state level renewable portfolio standard? Or do we have a lot of land that’s otherwise kind of disused or underutilized? And at the local level, what are our rules? What’s our playbook? What do we have in abundance? And what do we need? We can put those three things together into a plan. And the plan doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t have to be comprehensive, it just has to give us a place to start.
The energy and climate community, and I say this as a part of the energy and climate community for 25 years, we have been so focused on pollution reduction as our primary metric. Millions of tons of GHG emissions abated. That’s important, but it’s not everything. And focusing on just the big stuff, falling into that same sort of economies of scale trap that our industrial energy system fell into as well, has led us to focus as a community on big corporations, big cities, in many instances, institutions that generate a lot of pollution, but that have enough of their own money to get it right and really no excuse for not doing so..
And so, as a community of energy and sustainability leaders, we also have to challenge ourselves to think about our north star a bit differently. We know how do we build people into our definition of progress and how do we do more listening in that process as well.
Michelle, there’s a million things I’m super curious to dive in on with your book and this great vision that you’re casting today. Let’s just take a quick dive into at least one of the areas that I think we found really interesting, which is the five pathways rural communities can explore to reshape their energy future. Can you step us through each of these and what they mean?
Absolutely. There are so many places to go together, so many places to start. I picked five to explore. Those are energy efficiency, often the least sexy and the most underappreciated pathway to a clean energy future, but y’all know it’s important, particularly in a rural context where energy efficiency really needs to be viewed as an investment, a reparative investment in housing equity.
Two is solar. Solar at lots of different scales, from the rooftop to community solar to looking at these big giant solar farms that many corporations are helping to build.
Number three is resilience. Solar and energy storage helps create a more resilient energy future and gets us back to those rural roots of self-reliance.
Fourth is electric vehicles. It’s about looking at the convergence of these two massive industries, energy and electricity specifically, and transportation and how they come together from supply chains, manufacturing. Implications for our electricity grid is extraordinary. So how and where is that wealth going to be reinvested in our communities? And then, what are we going to do to make sure that it is reducing economic inequities, not increasing them? So big questions around EVs.
And then, finally, broadband, because y’all broadband is clean energy infrastructure. We have to have broadband to have smart grids. Also, rural electric cooperative utilities, municipal utilities can be ideal institutions to help make sure that broadband is not only built and goes to every home just like they did electricity back in the 1920s and 1930s, but they can also make it affordable.
And exploring each of those five ideas, not just with examples and connections and how you navigate the complexity of federal, state, and local regulations to deploy them, but sharing in every single instance real examples of local leaders who are making it happen. Because part of the beautiful news of what we can do today to build a rural renaissance is that you don’t have to make it up on your own and you’re not by yourself. You’re not alone.
Wow. Okay. I love hearing your perspective and you make it seem so achievable.
It is. That’s the beauty of it. It is achievable, and it is human. We’re all bombarded every day by the constant news of the latest climate catastrophe. All that stuff is real. That’s happening. But it can make us feel so overwhelmed and so disempowered. And you know what, though? That’s not the whole story.
Wow. Well, let’s talk about how you have been putting this vision into action for the last many years with your company, Groundswell. There’s five program areas. Let’s touch on each one of them briefly and give a sense of the breadth of what you’re doing at Groundswell and how you’re learning all these valuable lessons, being these amazing people and crafting this vision that I’m so inspired by.
Let’s start with Community Solar. What is Groundswell doing in that area?
Groundswell’s whole mission is building community power in every sense of the word. When I joined Groundswell as CEO in 2015, community solar was the first thing we tackled. It was new then. It was just emerging as a solution in the marketplace and in Groundswell’s hometown of Washington, DC, in the District of Columbia. Groundswell approached community solar as a beautiful way to share power among our neighbors. Rooftop solar isn’t available to everyone. Not every roof is optimally oriented as it relates to the sun. Not everyone owns the roof over their head. Many people live in apartment housing or in rentals, and many people don’t have the financial means to put that money down up front. Community solar is a way to solve that.
Groundswell approached community solar as a way for getting solar benefits, solar savings in particular, to the people who need them the most. The projects that we’ve developed in Maryland and the District of Columbia and many other places that we serve allocate 100% of the savings to our lower-income neighbors. People who need the savings are cutting their utility bill in half and everyone else-
Yeah. All the other people, more affluent households who participate in our projects, they pay about the same for solar as they would pay the utility, but that makes their savings available to the people who really need it. It’s a wonderful way to share not only the benefits of solar, but it’s a way for members of a community to come together to help provide financial benefits of clean energy to people who really need that $500 a month back in their pocket. People for whom that’s rent. It’s groceries. It’s medicine. It’s helping to meet the basic needs of being able to live and thrive in a city or town.
A lot of people who are fortunate enough to pay their bills relatively easily don’t realize how pivotal and important the cost of electricity is to lower-income families. There’s a term you use, and it’s widely used in the industry called energy burden. That’s really the percentage of how much a household is paying to keep the lights on. I think it’s so essential that no home can choose not to have electricity, but yet the impact that electricity has on a lower-income family is so much more profound, and it creates so many trade-offs and decisions that my family hasn’t had to do and many other families don’t have to, but it’s so important to highlight it.
Let’s talk about other ways in which Groundswell is helping families and communities. Let’s talk about resilience hub. What does this mean and what are you guys doing in this area?
I want to uplift the city of Baltimore, which is a national leader in community resiliency hubs. We have been partnering with them for more than four years now with sustained faithful, committed support from the Maryland Energy Administration to build community resiliency hubs that include solar and storage. Almost all of them are located on local community centers and local churches.
These resilience hubs serve as places where local community members can take shelter from storms. They can go to stay warm or cool when the power’s out. They can find a place to charge their phones or keep their insulin in the refrigerator. Many medicines, critical medicines, have to be refrigerated. If the power goes out, it jeopardizes your lifeline. It jeopardizes your health.
And community resiliency hubs are an idea that we say are propagating in so many places around the country because many times our most vulnerable communities, neighborhoods that have the highest energy burdens to begin with, many times are more health vulnerable as well in part due to the impacts of climate change, in many instances, due to the impact of legacies, of racist policies like redlining that starved communities of investment and of modern infrastructure, resiliency hubs can be reparative investments in our community infrastructure as well. So that again, we are prioritizing people’s needs as a way to serve through our energy systems.
We’re so grateful at Groundswell to be pioneering in this area and bringing resiliency hubs now, not just the city of Baltimore, go Baltimore, leading the country in energy resilience, but also in Montgomery County and bringing them to Georgia as well.
In the interest of time, let’s jump to one of our favorite parts. We have the privilege of asking all the amazing leaders and visionaries, a simple four questions, and the answers are so illustrative and usually so inspiring. Let’s just jump right into the lightning round if we can. Let me just start right here.
What excites you most about being in the clean energy business, Michelle?
I am most excited by the opportunity to serve at this transformative time. What our generations who are alive today do and decide and build will influence the next 100 if not the next thousand years. We are here to serve and create a better future, and we have every opportunity to do just that.
Question number two: If you could wave a magic wand and change just a single thing, what would it be?
If I could wave a magic wand, my wish would just be to change hearts and minds. I want everybody to see our energy futures and our energy systems not as some bundle of technology and economy, but as a system that’s really fundamental to society and civilization. And for everyone to have at least as much love for the people that those energy systems touch as I do. And that their love would be even greater than mine to really change the futures that our energy systems are building.
Third, what do you think will be the single most important change in how we generate, store and distribute electricity in the next five years?
Localization of our energy systems absolutely is the single most important thing that will change about the way our energy systems work. Localization. Localization. Localization.
The final question I’m sure you are asked all the time about, what can I do as an individual to be a part of this transition towards a clean energy future? What do you tell people when they ask you that question?
Deploy. Get it done, y’all. Just get good stuff done. Find one thing. Doesn’t matter how simple or small it may feel. There’s no such thing as small ball in this game. Get it done. We’re going to have a better, more sustainable, more equitable energy future, not because of some big grand things a big grand person did. It’s going to be the product of lots of little actions that you and I take every day that build the kind of futures that we want. So get it done, y’all.
Michelle, this has been a delightful eye-opening, deeply learning conversation. The work that you are doing at Groundswell, the word you’re spreading with your book, the career that you’ve had to make a difference in the world, is just about as inspiring and important as anything we’ve ever seen. So thank you for taking time out of your crazy busy schedule to saving the world to help us share your story. Appreciate your time today so much.
Thank you so much, Bill. It’s been a real blessing to be here with y’all, and I’m just doing my part.