Updated: May 26
By Dr. E'Lois Thomas
Michigan needs a bold vision to power its recovery. And a clean energy-driven game plan that drives new job creation and economic opportunities for communities that are struggling due to the pandemic is exactly the vision we need. As a Black woman who has dedicated her career to energy efficiency, I’ve seen firsthand how access to clean energy jobs and services can provide opportunities, cost savings and quality of life benefits to communities where and when we need them most.
That’s why the timing of Governor Whitmer’s new Executive Order announcing aggressive carbon reduction goals couldn’t be better. The governor’s plan, which calls for Michigan to become carbon neutral by 2050, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions while attracting new investment and clean energy opportunities across our state.
Investing in clean energy puts people to work. As a leader of Detroit-based Solutions for Energy Efficiency Logistics (SEEL) LLC, a clean energy company working to bring energy efficiency solutions to customers, I’m a small part of Michigan’s clean energy industry which now employs nearly 126,000 across the state. In fact, the industry already employs more than one in every 50 of Michigan workers. And with bold actions like Gov. Whitmer’s order, it can be even more important to Michigan’s future. When we grow the clean energy economy we grow small businesses (78% of clean energy workers are employed by companies with fewer than 20 employees); support rural economies (one in five Michigan clean energy jobs are in rural areas); and hire veterans (clean energy employs a higher percentage of veterans than the national average).
These are factory jobs manufacturing electric and hybrid electric cars. They are construction jobs for workers who improve the energy efficiency of our homes, schools and office buildings with better lighting, HVAC systems and insulation. They are building solar panels with state-of-the-art technology.
Now is the tie for ambitious climate policy. With thoughtful implementation, the governor’s executive order will create new clean energy opportunities while taking urgent action on climate. Thank you Governor Whitmer for your leadership.
In addition to jobs created, investments in clean energy bring substantial benefits to our communities. Identifying opportunities to use less energy must be a key part of hitting our carbon reduction goals. Efficiency improvements save money which benefits all consumers, but especially low-income households. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, in Detroit nearly a third of households pay more than 6 percent of their income on their energy bills.
My company has offered energy efficiency services to some of the Michigan small businesses most impacted by the pandemic. We have seen how helping them with their utility burden during these tough times can provide a lifeline for struggling small businesses. These opportunities are necessary for our state’s economic recovery.
Dr. E’Lois Thomas is the Chief Administrative Officer at SEEL, LLC, (Solutions for Energy Efficient Logistics), one of the largest 100% minority-owned, disabled-veteran owned energy efficiency program management firm. She currently serves as the vice chair of the Midwest Energy Efficiency Association’s board of directors, is a board member of the Michigan Chapter of the American Association of Blacks in Energy, the Siena Heights MBA Advisory Board and the board of RESULTS Mentoring. For more information visit www.seelllc.com.