The Energy Democracy Initiative


The Energy Democracy Initiative
The Energy Democracy Initiative
We're launching the Energy Democracy Initiative at Cleveland Owns to promote community stewardship of renewable energy assets and to advocate for a more humane utility system - two essential steps towards a just transition to a clean energy economy.

What is energy democracy? 
We love this definition of energy democracy from the national Energy Democracy Project, a group that inspires our work in Cleveland:

“Energy democracy is a way to frame the struggle of working people, low-income communities, and communities of color, and their allies, to take control of energy resources and decision-making from the corporate energy establishment and use those resources to empower their communities.

“It means a decentralized energy system, one characterized by social and community-based control and ownership of energy resources, a shared resource developed in harmony with the Earth ecosystems. Democratizing energy is a central aspect of just transition from a fossil-fuel economy to a new renewable energy economy grounded in economic and social justice.”

Energy democracy is part of a broader vision for a society transformed through a just transition away from extraction and towards regeneration. We’re deeply grateful for the work of Climate Justice Alliance and Movement Generation who’ve led on this vision for years. You can learn more about their work on a just transition here.

What does Cleveland Owns do through its Energy Democracy Initiative?

  • We build alternative institutions for collective ownership of clean energy assets through two projects:
    • We work with The BC, a block club in Hough that seeks to build Ohio’s first resident-owned solar garden in their historically Black neighborhood. In 2018 they invited Jonathan to support their innovative vision, first as an independent consultant, then later as co-founder of Cleveland Owns. As The BC developed their vision further, together we learned the solar industry in more detail. Their leadership is a big reason Cleveland Owns works on energy democracy today.
    • Through the Cleveland Solar Cooperative, we convened a group of residents and incubated a cooperative enterprise, so far consisting of residents across the neighborhoods of Detroit Shoreway and Lakewood. Members of the co-op will collectively fund and own rooftop solar arrays.

  • We work to transform our existing energy institutions for more humane outcomes: 
    • We advocate for systemic statewide utility reforms that would ensure every Ohioan is connected to water, gas, electricity, and internet through the pandemic and beyond. Some of our recent milestones include:
      • May - July 2020: Cleveland Owns helped convene more than 50 anti-poverty and advocacy groups in Ohio to demand a humane utility policy response to the covid-19 crisis. You can read our letter to Governor DeWine and the Public Utilities Commission here. We met with the PUCO to make our case that summer. 
      • December 2020: We co-hosted a statewide virtual townhall to demand Governor DeWine appoint someone who will represent our values to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, which has an opening since a former commissioner resigned in disgrace after the FBI raided his home in connection to the $61 million bribery scheme by First Energy. Yuck.