Building Our Energy Transition from the Middle Out
We who care about climate action often fool ourselves into only seeing two paths ahead: “topdown”and “bottom-up.” We pivot between too-small individual behavioral changes and too insurmountableinstitutional changes without seeing […]
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We who care about climate action often fool ourselves into only seeing two paths ahead: “topdown”
and “bottom-up.” We pivot between too-small individual behavioral changes and too insurmountable
institutional changes without seeing the local and regional actions in between. This
“middle out” space is where our best opportunities exist.

We created our Climate ActionKit to help us all roll up our sleeves and enact projects from the
middle out. The most impactful solutions to the climate crisis already exist. What we need isn’t new
technology, but social action to equitably scale what we already have. You and your community can
start doing this right now, where you are, with what you have.

In Soldotna and Homer, the middle-out thinking behind our ActionKit has led to five projects
conceived and executed by volunteers. But to unlock the unique climate solutions possible in every
community, we want YOU to use our ActionKit where you live.

Changes in energy generation are considered a top-down path in our collective climate impact and
often feel out of reach at the local level. But, here in the Cook Inlet watershed, our electricity is
generated by cooperatives, governed by member-elected directors. If you pay a bill, your vote can
directly influence Cook Inlet’s energy future.

Nearly three quarters of Americans buy electricity from investor-owned utilities, which leaves them
with no power over their power. About 13% of Americans, mainly in rural communities, are co-op
members. And although they can vote for co-op directors, their decisions don’t touch the generation
facilities where energy’s carbon impact is. Most co-ops are merely the end of a longer chain—they
sell electricity to homes and businesses, but buy it from larger entities that actually own the coal
plants or solar farms it comes from. Members have a say in the system that brings them power, but
none in where it ultimately comes from.

Southcentral Alaska’s co-ops own and control their own electrical generation. Our elected
directors make decisions about the actual sources of power so, each spring, co-op elections
are a chance for middle-out change in our energy systems.

In 2020, Homer Electric Association (HEA) passed a goal of becoming 50% renewable by 2025
(currently we’re at 14%). HEA’s engineers have worked diligently on this difficult task—seeking
deals with independent power producers, pursuing small hydro, and earning grant funding for wind
exploration on the Kenai Peninsula. The precarious supply of Cook Inlet natural gas, which fuels the
remaining 86% of our electricity, is a strong incentive. The spur was sharpened this April, when
Hilcorp would not commit to giving HEA future gas contracts after the current one ends in early
2024.

HEA is awake to the need to use much less gas very soon. However, its board is divided between
members ideologically opposed to renewable energy, a few renewable champions, and some swing
votes between. Soon we’ll have a chance to tip that balance. With a pro-renewable majority, the coop
can move even more aggressively to do what needs done— for the sake of both our household
budgets and the climate.

In 2023, Inletkeeper will campaign again for pro-renewable HEA candidates. Reach out to
ben@inletkeeper.org to help create a clean energy future right here, right now.

Thank you for reading. We are able to do this work because of member support from concerned friends like you. Please donate today to protect Cook Inlet for our future generations.