U.S. Department of Energy Announces Partnership with Local Coalition to create Kern County roadmap for clean energy future
Partners include the City of Bakersfield, Kern Community College District, Community Action Partnership of Kern, Dolores Huerta Foundation
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced Tuesday that it will partner with the City of Bakersfield and the Kern Clean Cities Coalition, a group of local partners including the Kern Community College District, the Dolores Huerta Foundation, Community Action Partnership of Kern and the Kern County Farm Bureau, to develop a roadmap for clean energy economic development. The collaborative project, known as The City of Bakersfield's Kern Community Resiliency and Microgrids, aims to use and develop microgrids to mitigate rising energy costs for low-income households and decarbonize the agriculture industry to sustain, if not enhance the agriculture and value-added industry, which employs 1 in 5 residents in Kern County.
A microgrid is a local energy grid with control capability, which means it can disconnect from the traditional grid and operate autonomously. A microgrid not only provides backup for the grid in case of emergencies, but can also be used to cut costs, or connect to a local resource that is too small or unreliable for traditional grid use. The DOE’s technical experts will help the coalition evaluate the suitability of microgrids, such as the potential location, size and energy composition and storage options, and the best application in a community or agricultural operation setting. “This partnership with the Department of Energy will bring world class expertise to support the City’s economic development efforts to advance the development of clean energy technologies and enhance local economic opportunities for local residents”, said Bakersfield City Manager Christian Clegg. “This project opens the opportunity for future collaborations with DOE and industry partners in advancing economic development efforts related to energy”
The local coalition was chosen as part of the DOE’s Communities Local Energy Action Program (LEAP), an initiative that provides supportive services valued at up to $16 million to communities that have an economic dependence on fossil fuel industries and face high exposure to pollution and environmental hazards. The goal of the program is to develop a customized clean energy pathway to increase energy resilience, lower utility costs and create well-paying jobs in dozens of communities throughout the nation.
“I am so pleased that the Kern Community College District is part of two of the LEAP proposals selected by the Department of Energy,” said Kern Community College District Chancellor Sonya Christian. “The technical assistance available through this opportunity will give us access to cutting edge technological innovation to support the evolution of workforce education for future high-wage jobs that will equitably benefit all of our communities.”
Affordable clean renewable energy options are imperative for the county’s low-income and energy cost burdened households that face time of use pricing, increasing numbers of high heat days each year, and who are unable to afford cost-effective energy efficient home HVAC systems. Low-income households will continue to experience disparate impacts if pricing, financing, responsibility for deferred system maintenance, and grid resilience improvements are not more equitably shared between affluent cool weather communities and low-income hot inland California communities.
“Kern County already has high rates of poverty and many residents rely on assistance to pay the utility bill every month. As we take steps to address climate change, we need good jobs and affordable solutions to uplift the local workforce. This partnership will lay the groundwork to make that happen,” said Jeremy Tobias, CEO of Community Action Partnership of Kern.
Under the arrangement, DOE will provide consultation and other services to The City of Bakersfield's Kern Community Resiliency and Microgrids, through its network of experts in the fields of energy and economic development to identify clean energy goals for Kern County and steps to achieve better energy planning and efficiency. The focus will include multiple strategies for meeting the needs of low-income energy cost burdened communities, specifically:
- Low cost LED lighting, controls, and energy load reduction for households
- Community clean energy options that result in reduced energy burden
- Community microgrid options that result in resilient energy power and reduced cost burden for homeowners
- Low cost renewable energy and battery storage, EV/ZEV vehicles, and home charging stations
- Community solar array parking shade structures and community EV charging stations
- Technical assistance to strategize, consider, and implement emerging or not yet commercially viable strategies and technologies.
The local coalition also includes the cities of Wasco, Shafter and Arvin, the Kern County Black Chamber of Commerce, the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Kern Inyo Mono Central Labor Council and the Building Trades Council.
“Transitioning to an environmentally sustainable future is a must, but it must be done in a way that ensures that low-income and rural residents are not adversely impacted. This partnership, which brings together industry, government, education and residents, will ensure that the most disadvantaged community members have a voice in the future of our community,” said Camila Chavez, Executive Director of the Dolores Huerta Foundation.
DOE’s Communities LEAP initiative aligns with the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal to assist community-led transitions to a decarbonized economy, and to build a healthier, more equitable, and sustainable future.
The mission of the Kern Community College District is to provide outstanding educational programs and services that are responsive to our diverse students and communities.