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U.S. Secretary of Energy Talks Community Lighthouses, Louisiana UMC Churches Playing a Role

November 17, 2023

(NEWS RELEASE FROM TOGETHER LOUISIANA)

Two United Methodist churches in Louisiana are involved in this effort, are participating in the Community Lighthouse project, an ambitious effort in New Orleans to build a network of solar-powered churches and community centers to give comfort and immediate relief to neighbors who lose their electricity after a storm. You can read about that here.  

Recently, U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm joined with hundreds of members of Together Louisiana, the state’s largest grassroots organization, to celebrate the group’s newest solar+storage installation at New Wine Christian Fellowship. It is located in St. John the Baptist Parish, the most vulnerable county to climate change in the U.S., according to the 2023 Climate Vulnerability Index.

Rev. Shawn Anglim, First Grace United Methodist Church in New Orleans, spoke at the event and you can watch his comments in the video below. 
 

 

“We are thrilled to celebrate the completion of the seventh Community Lighthouse in Louisiana. This project is a testament to the power of grassroots organizations and their commitment to creating resilient and sustainable communities,” said Secretary Granholm.

An initiative of Together Louisiana, the Community Lighthouse project provides commercial-scale solar power and back-up battery capacity to congregations and community institutions throughout the state. During extended power outages, they immediately assess need and aid area residents.

“Just a year and a half ago, reeling from a deadly, weeks-long power outage throughout the state, we launched a grassroots effort to set the world standard for grid resilience and climate response. A lofty, rhetorical goal then, now we see that we’re well on our way to making it a reality,” said Pastor Shawn Anglim of First Grace UMC who is a faith leader with Together Louisiana.

Community Lighthouse is already the nation’s largest network of solar+storage resilience hubs. The Community Lighthouse at New Wine Christian Fellowship is the seventh to come online in a network that will span the entire state.

“Here we are in the most climate-vulnerable county in America, and we, everyday people, are leading the nation with a solution for resilience,” said Pastor Neil Bernard of New Wine Christian Fellowship, who is a faith leader with Together Louisiana. “We are grateful to Secretary Granholm for being here and DOE’s support. As a Community Lighthouse, we will be able to continue serving our community in times of crisis, which are becoming more frequent and devastating.

Beyond their role in neighborhood-level disaster response, the lighthouses represent a significant investment in clean, renewable energy that will significantly reduce energy costs, as well as workforce development that includes project labor agreements to hire local workers at living wages for all stages of the process. 

Together Louisiana’s regional affiliates are spearheading efforts in their areas. Together New Orleans has plans for a network of 86. North Louisiana Interfaith has plans for a network of 20 across Caddo Parish. Together Baton Rouge is advancing plans for its six.

“Community Lighthouse represents what’s possible when everyday people are empowered,” said Evelyn Turner, a leader with Together New Orleans. “Eighteen months ago, in the sweltering heat, we decided enough was enough and we needed to create a solution for our own communities. Today is a testament to that.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a $250 million federal investment in Louisiana that will support a major expansion of Together Louisiana’s Community Lighthouses.  

The Community Lighthouse project is being funded through public-private partnerships and philanthropic efforts, including: 

  •     $1 million from the Greater New Orleans Foundation through a “Leadership Challenge Grant” to launch the initiative.
  •     $3.8 million community project funding by Congressman Troy A. Carter, Sr. - the single largest in the nation for a solar-related project. 
  •     $2 million from the City of New Orleans
  •     $500,000 from Caddo Parish
  •     $500,000 from the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Council 
  •     Other funders include the U.S. Department of Energy, Kresge Foundation, Direct Relief, and Episcopal Relief and Development, among others. 
     

About Together Louisiana

Together Louisiana is a statewide network of more than 250 religious congregations and civic organizations across Louisiana, representing more than 200,000 people. It is one of the largest grassroots organizations in the history of Louisiana. The mission of Together Louisiana is to give faith and community-based organizations an opportunity to develop the leadership capacity of their members and affect change on a larger scale than they could alone. Together Louisiana is currently working on issues that include tax fairness, access to healthcare, flood recovery, access to healthy food, workforce development, criminal justice reform and improving infrastructure and transportation.

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