My family has been in Tennessee since before it was a state, and long before the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining significantly altered our landscape, compromised our waters and jeopardized the self-reliance of our people.
Re-opening Appalachian Voices’ Tennessee office in Knoxville this fall has been a homecoming for me in several ways. I am back in Tennessee after a stint in western North Carolina and Peru. My journey revealed how ingenuity can take root in often overlooked places, where environmental injustice is the prevailing theme. I am coming home to help tap the existing ingenuity in the area to strengthen the communities of Appalachian Tennessee.
As the Tennessee Energy Savings Outreach Coordinator, I’ll be working with communities served by rural electric cooperatives to institute a program that can save residents up to 40 percent on their electric bills. By doing so, we will be saving money, making our homes more healthy and comfortable, and helping grow our local economies. Not only that, energy efficiency also reduces our reliance on burning coal for electricity—the single largest contributor in the U.S. to carbon pollution and climate change.
The Southeast has 29% of the nation’s energy savings potential. So there’s lots of room for improvement, but many folks don’t have the means for to make energy efficiency upgrades in their homes. That’s where electric co-ops, as member-owned utilities, can help.
Last week, I met a family in Jefferson City that is struggling to make ends meet. They want to insulate their home so they can reduce their heating bill in the winter, but they can’t afford the cost. Energy efficiency programs like on-bill financing would help them, and they have joined our campaign to support the local co-op in offering the program.
Programs like Help My House in South Carolina and How$mart Kentucky are already demonstrating how these energy efficiency programs can significantly improve quality of life and economic development. Now, it’s Tennessee’s turn.
I’d love to hear from you. Contact me at amy.kelly [at] appvoices.org.
We can do this together!