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The Rev. Kate McGregor Mosley, executive director of Georgia Interfaith Power & Light (GIPL), is helping religious institutions throughout Georgia to reduce their operating costs by becoming more energy efficient. She is one of three women recently honored by ATL100, an Atlanta clean energy campaign.
Southeast Energy News spoke with Rev. Mosley about how sustainability and clean energy issues resonate with church-goers and about an upcoming campaign that will attempt to persuade more congregations to go solar. The following conversation was edited slightly for clarity and brevity.
What inspired you to lead Georgia Interfaith Power & Light?
When I completed my theology degree, I never realized that environmental ministry was a vocational path. The more I studied biblical texts and engaged with Christian ethics, I realized there was a greater need to engage and shape a deeper commitment to environmental stewardship.
What messages are resonating with congregations?
Saving energy through efficiencies and conservation measures also saves a great deal of money. That’s money that can fund programs and ministries that faith communities feel called to offer the wider community. And all the world’s major religions have something to say about caring for this Earth and practicing stewardship. We see the destruction we humans are causing the planet.
What you mean when you talk about “just energy” and “energy equity.”
“Just energy” means that we generate and use energy in the most efficient manner possible. The energy we require should not create undue burden on others or on the Earth. The pursuit of energy equity requires us to ensure that everyone has fair and equal access to energy efficiencies and clean energy. It also incorporates an element of economic empowerment so that those who are oppressed socioeconomically have improved access to clean energy jobs and affordable energy options for their homes and communities.
How do you know GIPL is connecting the dots for church-goers?
Daily, we receive emails and calls from people in the pews looking for more ideas about how to enact environmental stewardship in their particular congregation. We see programs growing when these faith communities establish green teams. We catch glimpses of how congregants learned about solar energy through a GIPL program and ended up procuring solar for their own properties — whether they be residential or commercial properties.
How do you measure GIPL’s success?
Every congregation that receives a GIPL energy audit tracks their progress through Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager, tracking their utility use and costs before efficiency upgrades and after retrofits are completed. We’ve provided energy audits to over 300 congregations since 2010. We also have provided over $850,000 in matching grants to fund energy efficiency projects in these houses of worship and religious schools. Those funds are matched by the congregation, so essentially, GIPL has helped fund about $2 million in energy efficiency projects that otherwise would not have been completed.
What tools are proving useful in making sanctuaries more energy efficient?
GIPL has the greatest success with offering wi-fi and digitized thermostats, LED lighting and improved insulation. The energy audit is personalized for each sanctuary, though, so the efficiency recommendations we offer can be maximized for each particular location. We have an excellent engineer helping us with this effort, and he often consults on large-scale HVAC system upgrades. Those are behemoth systems in many of these congregations and many of these facilities are managed by congregational volunteers. They welcome the access to expert advice on maintaining efficient buildings.
Tell us about the upcoming Solarize Atlanta campaign.
GIPL is part of a coalition that will bring affordable solar energy to the city of Atlanta in 2018. Already, over 200 people have expressed interest in the program even though we will launch officially in April. Our goal is to install at least 200 solar energy systems within the city boundaries, and include a sizable array for a large nonprofit ministry serving some of Atlanta’s neediest neighbors.
What are the biggest challenges facing GIPL and clean energy in Georgia?
It can be an immense challenge for congregations to see how urgent this work is when there are sermons to prepare, funerals to host, and meals to serve to the needy. And the same is somewhat true for clean energy advocates statewide working in all sectors. The time is now for us to act boldly, to diminish our dependence upon fossil fuels. We need both big projects and diverse investments while also creating policy that supports these developments. We can no longer lag behind other states in the progress being made on investments in renewable energy and efficiencies.