Centering Communities in the Clean Energy Future: Meet Marc Gonzalez
A member of CBEY's Planetary Solutions in Clean Energy program
The Planetary Solutions in Clean Energy - Internship and Fellowship Program (PSiCE) is a new program that offers summer research and internship opportunities to students at Yale who are committed to advancing and pursuing a career in the clean energy field. To celebrate the launch of PSiCE we’re speaking with students in the initial cohort to learn about their goals.
The sight of black smoke billowing from a power plant in Houston one fateful road trip was all it took for Yale rising senior Marc Gonzalez to discover he wanted a future in clean energy. That decision, coupled with the understanding of how our current energy system does not work for many low-income and BIPOC communities, led him to pursue a degree in Environmental Studies with a focus on Energy Justice at Yale College.
“I decided to become an environmental studies major after living in Houston, Texas, and having to face the realities of our energy system so close.”
A native of New Haven, Marc says the far-reaching impacts of energy production, especially on low-income communities, are not as readily apparent here as they are in other areas of the country, such as Houston.
“New Haven is removed from the oil and coal that we are burning and from the natural gas—it's separated. In Houston, you see where the energy production happens. You could see where the refinery was happening in the community I was living in.”
Marc’s goal through the Planetary Solutions in Clean Energy program is to put the intersections of clean energy and environmental justice into practice through policy change.
“Our current energy system is broken. It does not work for many low-income and BIPOC communities. I want to better serve my community to get them the clean, renewable, and reliable energy we deserve.
I hope to work towards creating better policies to create green energy jobs and opportunities to make people want clean energy in their neighborhoods.”
The solution, he says, lies within the human element of the energy industry. Marc understands that the energy sector, as it currently stands, is the livelihood of many communities. Transitioning the industry towards clean energy without taking the human impact into consideration would further disrupt communities and cause job loss. He says the clean energy transition will require safety nets to support workers as the transitions are being made.
“It's easy to sit in an ivory tower and say, ‘well these projects are for the best’, or for the better, but then they raise people’s bills. A lot of people are already living paycheck to paycheck. They can't afford a raised bill.
So we have to put into consideration a low-income break, to make sure the people who can't afford to pay can still get benefits from these innovation programs and they are not going to be thrust into debt for the sake of a better future. Because we have to ask, a better future for who?”
Recently passed legislation in Illinois has given Marc hope that the transition to an equitable system of clean energy can be done in his lifetime as the groundwork has already been laid. He anticipates solutions will include conversations with all levels of government as well as utility companies to ensure that there can be a seamless transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.
“With CBEY, I’m working with Elevate Energy this summer. Elevate is a nonprofit group out of Chicago and they do a lot of really amazing things.
I work with the policy side and most of my work focuses on a specific bill, The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, which was this really revolutionary piece of legislation that was passed last year. It’s the most progressive climate bill that has ever been passed in this country and it focuses on supporting workers and supporting communities.
There is always someone in the class who is like ‘that isn't politically feasible,’ but they found a way to do it all, and everything that was not feasible they put into one big bill. I’m eager to figure out how they did it and how it was able to pass so it can be applied to other states. I'm very grateful to CBEY to have this opportunity to look so much into it to do the policy research.”
In addition to his work through the PSiCE internship, Marc is involved in community organizing, student radio, and is a member of the Environmentalist of Color Collective, a student organization fighting for clean energy within the BIPOC community.
CBEY is proud to welcome Marc as an inaugural cohort member of the 2022 Planetary Solutions in Clean Energy program.