Louisville Metro selected for federal pilot to develop equity-focused clean energy programs
Louisville Metro Government (LMG) is one of 22 communities recently selected to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Communities Local Energy Action Program (Communities LEAP) Pilot. As part of the pilot, the city will receive technical assistance around designing sustainability programs that are accessible to and directly benefit low-income and historically disadvantaged residents.
LMG partnered on its pilot program application with the nonprofit Metropolitan Housing Coalition and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, which will serve as advisors and community connectors throughout the process.
“Our low-income and marginalized communities face higher rates of asthma, cardiovascular disease, and other serious illnesses, as well as higher energy costs, all because of the disproportionate impact of climate change. Louisville Metro Government, along with many great community partners, have been working for years to mitigate the impacts of climate change through tracking and reducing our carbon emissions, growing our tree canopy, and investing in infrastructure,” said Mayor Greg Fischer. “With this assistance from the U.S. Department of Energy, we will be able to continue our efforts in new ways as we move toward our goal of alleviating residents’ higher energy burdens and improve their overall health and wellbeing. Thank you to the Metropolitan Housing Coalition and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth for their partnership in this work!”
Like cities across the nation, Louisville has experienced environmental injustice since its earliest days. Public health issues caused by the booming coal industry in the late 1800s and the subsequent concentration of oil, plastic, chemical, and rubber industries in west Louisville have impacted residents’ lives for generations. These issues were exacerbated by historic redlining of communities of color that followed and have led to disparities based on race and income – including the fact that people who live ZIP codes in west Louisville have a life expectancy that is 12 years less than those in eastern Louisville.
These communities are already at a greater risk for respiratory diseases, increased stress and economic hardship and often lack access to clean energy. With help from the Department of Energy, Louisville Metro aims to create and expand programs to help make energy bills affordable for families and clean energy investments like solar, more attainable in their homes.
"Our entire economy is in transition, and we need a people-centered approach to clean energy, one that centers the needs and ingenuity of people most affected by high bills, high rates of asthma due to air pollution, and high impacts from climate disasters and extreme heat. Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC) is pleased to partner with the city of Louisville and U.S. Department of Energy on this effort to put racial and economic justice at the center of our city's energy transition,” said Cassia Herron, KFTC spokesperson and immediate-past chair of the KFTC board.
Tony Curtis, Director of the Metropolitan Housing Coalition said, “The Metropolitan Housing Coalition has a long history of working on energy affordability, accessibility, and equity issues for low- and fixed-income households, as utility costs are a key driver of accessible and attainable housing. The need for creating sustainable energy programs targeting economically disadvantaged households is essential to solving the attainable housing crisis in Louisville. The Coalition is proud to be a partner in this work.”
Mayor Fischer created the Office of Sustainability (now the Office of Advanced Planning and Sustainability) in 2012 to focus on investing in green and clean energy and making sustainability more accessible. To date, Louisville Metro Government has incentivized nearly 1 million square feet of certified cool roofs through the city’s Cool Roof Incentive Program, which helps combat Louisville’s Heat Island Effect. Metro Council Districts 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 12, 14, and 15, which have been identified as high-heat districts and which also include some of Louisville’s lowest-income neighborhoods, are prioritized through this program.
Since 2016, Louisville Metro has leveraged over $2.7 million in private capital toward energy efficiency and renewable energy projects through its Energy Project Assessment District (EPAD) Program, which allows commercial property owners to secure more favorable financing terms, making it more cost effective to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy technology.
Louisville Metro also recently launched the Solar Over Louisville solarize campaign to give residents and small businesses in the greater Louisville region the opportunity to go solar and support the city’s 100% clean energy goals. The campaign will give participants bulk-purchasing power to obtain discounted wholesale rates for solar installation. To extend the energy cost savings benefits of Solar Over Louisville to low-moderate income residents, Louisville Metro is currently offering limited Solar Grant funds to assist income-qualified property owners in Louisville-Jefferson County by covering the cost of solar installation.
In 2021, Louisville Metro hired its first energy manager and reduced its energy consumption by 15%, saved over $700,000 and avoided 2,200 tons of CO2 equivalent emissions. The work to reduce the city’s emissions and energy consumption is part of Louisville Metro’s goals of 100% renewable electricity for Metro operations by 2030, 100% clean energy for Metro operations by 2035, and 100% clean energy community-wide by 2040.