The #RenewTN motion proved that it’s rising –– as the largest crowd but to assemble in the Knoxville mayoral marketing campaign gathered to listen to candidates’ plans on addressing energy points that have an effect on all Knoxvillians..

Kate Tracy, Laura Humphrey, and Maggie Shober | July 31, 2019 | Elections, Energy Justice, Energy Policy, Tennessee

This publish is the second in a sequence celebrating accomplishments of the wonderful folks supporting Renew TN since the marketing campaign started a 12 months in the past. Renew TN goals to cut back energy invoice burdens for Tennesseans most in want; enable solar energy to flourish; and put the “public” again in public power. You can discover different articles in the sequence here. Watch and share the full video of the mayoral energy discussion board held on July 29th, 2019 here. You can view the slide deck that accompanied the discussion board questions here.

From left: Moderator, André Canty; Mayoral Candidates: Indya Kincannon, Fletcher Burkhardt, Calvin Skinner, Marshall Stair, Eddie Mannis

Energy is a scorching concern in Knoxville’s 2019 metropolis elections. This Monday, 5 of the six Knoxville mayoral candidates answered questions from moderator André Canty of the Highlander Research and Education Center in entrance of a crowd of over 200. The dialogue ranged throughout the candidates’ plans to handle excessive energy burdens in the metropolis, learn how to meet Knoxville’s proposed climate objectives, and negotiating with the native and regional public power suppliers, Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

Over 200 Knoxvillians attended the Mayoral Candidate Energy Forum 7/29 keen to listen to candidates plans on reducing electrical payments, carbon emissions objectives for the metropolis, and transparency from our native utility, KUB.

Progress on energy is a precedence for Knoxville

Two discussion board questions addressed the concern of excessive energy burdens, or portion of revenue spent on energy, prevalent in Knoxville’s low-revenue and minority communities and worsened by excessive fastened charges on KUB electrical payments. Candidates mentioned approaches to work with KUB to carry down fastened charges and incentivize weatherization and energy financial savings measures for prospects most in want. Mayoral candidates Fletcher Burkhardt, Indya Kincannon, Eddie Mannis, Calvin Skinner, and Marshall Stair appeared to search out widespread floor on these points.

Map of Low-income Energy Burdens in Knoxville by Census Tract
Low-income Energy Burdens in Knoxville by Census Tract

Candidates acknowledged the $19 and shortly to be $20.50 month-to-month mandatory fixed payment or “basic customer charge” on electrical payments, which KUB claims helps pay for infrastructure upgrades, disproportionately impacts low-revenue and glued revenue customers and places our most susceptible communities in danger, which Burkhardt summed up as “unacceptable.” Skinner acknowledged that “KUB Board knows the fixed fees are too damn high, TVA knows the fixed fees are too damn high,” and that “it’s time for us to act.”

Stair defined the influence, stating that, “[A fixed fee] doesn’t incentivize weatherization. If most of your bill is fixed costs, it doesn’t matter how much energy you consume.” Many candidate feedback echoed sentiments from the SEEED forum the place, simply days earlier than, “unaffordable utilities” was highlighted as one of the high three points Knoxvillians face.

Kincannon acknowledged she “opposes regressive fixed rates,” and identified that “better ways to finance fixed costs are being done in other cities and KUB knows there are other ways.” She acknowledged a want to work with KUB to discover a income impartial technique to work on a “KEEM 2.0.” The Knoxville Extreme Energy Makeover (KEEM) was a program that ended in 2017 the place TVA supplied $15 million to weatherize low-revenue houses in Knoxville. TVA funding for weatherization and different energy financial savings packages has since plummeted.

The 5 candidates supported energy effectivity as one of the finest options to alleviate energy burdens, however acknowledged the excessive fastened payment isn’t conducive to reducing family energy prices and incentivizing energy effectivity upgrades in houses that can decrease energy consumption, scale back carbon emissions, and make houses and communities more healthy.

Newly registered “clean energy voter” and #RenewTN volunteer Alex Carter indicators the Renew TN petition previous to asking mayoral candidates if Knoxville’s proposed climate emissions objectives are formidable sufficient to handle the climate disaster.

Knoxvillians’ questions draw out candidate positions

The first spherical of  discussion board questions have been chosen primarily based on on-line suggestions from #RenewTN supporters; the second half of the Q&A featured questions from the packed viewers.

Positions on Knoxville climate objectives

Alex Carter, Knoxville resident and incoming freshman at UT-Knoxville, not too long ago turned 18, registered to vote, and is a self-described “clean energy voter.” Carter requested on behalf of her technology if Knoxville’s proposed climate goals have been formidable sufficient to satisfy the stage of the disaster.

Answers from mayoral candidates ranged from optimistic to pragmatic. Skinner, Burkhardt, and Kincannon expressed curiosity in doing extra. Mannis articulated satisfaction with the present objectives stating they have been a “milestone,” whereas Kincannon expressed that the aim for the group might be extra formidable (the present proposal doesn’t embrace a group aim till 2050). Stair, a present City Councilmember who will vote on the proposed objectives August 13, acknowledged that he feels the objectives are formidable. He pointed to the upcoming problem of implementation and referred to as for collaboration from people, companies, and each stage of authorities to realize the proposed climate objectives.

Candidates have been additionally requested how they’d develop a plan to realize the proposed climate objectives. Skinner acknowledged he would begin engaged on it inside the first 30 days as mayor and faucet into teams already engaged on addressing this “moral crisis.” Several candidates proposed measures like switching to electrical buses, encouraging walkability and bike journeys, and lowering energy use of metropolis buildings.

Positions on TVA

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a federal entity, provides all of the electrical energy distributed by KUB to residential prospects, companies, and metropolis operations. TVA selections have a serious influence on energy consumption and prices in Knoxville, although neither the metropolis nor the state of Tennessee has direct regulatory authority over these selections. TVA has not too long ago moved away from cost-saving energy efficiency programs and low-cost, clean, solar energy.

Candidates have been requested what previous experiences ready them to work with TVA when applicable and stand as much as TVA when needed. Skinner emphasised his civil rights activism that ready him to talk up for all communities. He went on to say, “We need to leverage who we are as a city…Knoxville & KUB are one of the largest customers to TVA.” Stair lamented TVA’s disappointing course on solar energy, whereas Burkhardt highlighted how his enterprise negotiation expertise ready him to inform TVA “either you do it or we do it.” Kincannon promised to make use of the mayor’s “bully pulpit” to push TVA. Alternatively, Mannis careworn the “bully pulpit” as a final resort and as a substitute would construct and leverage strategic partnerships.

Positions on KUB Board

The mayor of Knoxville has a key position in deciding on candidates to take a seat on KUB’s regulating physique, the KUB Board of Directors. Candidates have been requested what {qualifications} to count on from nominees to take a seat on the KUB Board. All candidates careworn the significance of the KUB Board representing all of Knoxville’s communities. Kincannon steered at the least one member be somebody who has “experienced getting one of those pink slips” for utility disconnection. Mannis requested for higher public participation in the nomination course of, notably by attending City Council conferences the place nominations are accredited.

Audience-guided questions for the mayoral candidates additionally lined:

  • Electric autos and transportation (56:11)
  • Access to solar energy after TVA cancels residential solar program (37:20)
  • Changes to the City Charter governing the relationship between KUB and the metropolis (1:11:15).


Knoxville City Council Candidates from left: Amy Midis, Janet Testerman, Charles Al-Bawi, Charles Lomax, David Hayes, Amelia Parker

City Council candidates present as much as #RenewTN

Before the mayoral candidates took the stage, metropolis council candidates Charles Al-Bawi, David Hayes, Charles Lomax, Amy Midis, Amelia Parker, and Janet Testerman let the packed crowd know why you will need to them how Knoxville produces and consumes energy.

Charles Lomax acknowledged, “Time is of the essence, we are in crunch time. If we don’t decide now to have renewable and sustainable energy, we are jeopardizing our environment, our country, our planet, for ours and future generations to come. We have to make the choice now. We need to make sure we are doing everything in our power, not in the future, right now, to make sure we have clean and renewable energy.”

Charles Al-Bawi and Amelia Parker outlined two explanation why it’s necessary: social justice and monetary accountability. Al-Bawi acknowledged, “if we choose renewable energy sources instead of non-renewable ones, we save the environment, less resource depletion, less pollution, less greenhouse gases, but also we save cost savings in our energy bills and we create jobs.” Amelia Parker helped lay the basis for the KEEM program in Knoxville and primarily based on that have says there’s a have to “look at the impact on our low income residents,” whereas investing in a green economic system “because you always make your money back [on your investments] from the savings you make.”

Long-time climate justice advocate David Hayes desires to “make sure the great [proposed climate] goals we have for our city are bolder and we need everybody to be involved.” He additionally prolonged a proposal to people and organizations to affix him in growing a climate platform for his marketing campaign.

City council candidates Testerman and Midis identified the have to take into consideration the influence of our energy selections in order to guard Knoxville’s landscapes. Testerman famous she has labored with native organizations to, “preserve the beauty of the natural area.” Midis reminded the viewers that “our elected officials are the stewards of our city.”

A couple of of the SACE workers members and Renew TN volunteers who made the mayoral discussion board successful.

Renew TN in Knoxville and past

Monday’s occasion is the newest in a rising Renew TN marketing campaign that exists not solely in Knoxville, however throughout Tennessee, and wouldn’t be doable with out volunteers. Following continued increases of mandatory fixed fees on our electric bills and participation at Knoxville Utility Board conferences, over 3,000 Knoxvillians united in February 2019 behind a petition to ask KUB to Freeze the Fees.

Weekly Renew TN Community Meetings are the place to begin for these able to take motion and put the “public” again in public power. Join us at our next Renew TN meeting.

So far, Knoxvillians have despatched over 650 letters to candidates and elected officers asking them to unite with us round Renew TN values to decrease our electrical payments; make clear, solar energy accessible for everybody; and guarantee clear, accountable, equitable, and inclusive selections are being made at TVA and KUB. #RenewTNYear1

Want to know where your candidate stands on Renew TN and climate policy for Knoxville? Email them here and keep raising your voice!

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