Power to the People: The New Energy Democracy

Sept 5th, 2017 | 6:00-8:30 PM | CIC Venture Cafe | One Broadway, Cambridge, MA


About the Event

Energy democracy is an emergent social movement that connects energy policy and social policy.  The concept has been developed in response to growing concerns about socio-economic and racial inequities, the powerful influence of conventional fossil fuel energy companies on politics and policy, and the negative impacts of climate change.

Gender imbalance in the energy sector, fair access to the benefits of energy efficiency, and community-controlled sustainable and just local economic development will be discussed in light of the societal value of more diverse and inclusive participation in the renewable energy transition.

Our expert speakers will highlight opportunities for re-envisioning the renewable energy transition as a larger social transformation that redistributes power – literally and figuratively – and also strengthens societal resilience at multiple levels.


Jennie C. Stephens, Professor of Sustainability Science & Policy & Associate Director of the Global Resilience Institute, Northeastern University
Jennie C. Stephens is Dean’s Professor of Sustainability Science & Policy and Associate Director of the Global Resilience Institute at Northeastern University. Her research, teaching, and community engagement focuses on social dimensions of the renewable energy transition, reducing fossil fuel reliance, and strengthening resilience by integrating social justice with climate-energy policy. Professor Stephens received a 2017 Arab-American Frontiers Fellowship from the National Academy of Sciences, she is a 2015-2016 Leopold Leadership fellow, and her book “Smart Grid (R)Evolution: Electric Power Struggles” (Cambridge University Press, 2015) explores social and cultural debates about energy system change (co-authored with Wilson & Peterson). Before joining Northeastern, Professor Stephens was on the faculty at the University of Vermont and Clark University. She earned her PhD (2002) and MS (1998) at California Institute of Technology in Environmental Science & Engineering and her BA (1997) at Harvard in Environmental Science & Public Policy.

Alex Papali, Green Justice Organizer, Clean Water Action
Alex has lived in the Boston area 30 years, organizing locally since high school. His areas of focus have ranged from prison issues to immigrant rights to tenant organizing–with the common goal of addressing structural causes of injustice and obstacles to sustainability. At Clean Water Action, Alex works towards ‘energy democracy’ with the Green Justice Campaign: fair access to the benefits of energy efficiency, clean local energy through “community microgrids,” and a robust green economy for all through the collective efforts of more than 40 community, labor and environmental groups statewide.  He is assisting the development of a grassroots energy group in the Worcester area, with a focus on building clean distributed energy resources that serve linguistically diverse low-income communities. He also helps coordinate the Boston Recycling Coalition, aiming to grow a world-class Zero Waste system in Boston that captures untapped economic potential and eliminates toxics and climate pollution by reimagining how we produce, consume and dispose of everything we use.

Penn Loh, Director of the Master of Public Policy Program and Community Practice for the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, Tufts University
Penn Loh is Lecturer and Director of the Master of Public Policy Program and
Community Practice at Tufts University’s Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning. He partners with various community base building organizations in the Right to the City Alliance and Center for Economic Democracy. From 1996 to 2009, he served in various roles, including Executive Director, at Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE), a Roxbury-based environmental justice group. He holds an M.S. in environmental science and policy from Energy and Resources Group of the University of California at Berkeley and a B.S. in electrical engineering from MIT. Before joining ACE, he was Research Associate at the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security in Oakland, California and a Research Analyst at the Tellus Institute for Resource and Environmental Strategies in Boston. He has published broadly on environmental and social justice issues. He has served on the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council’s Health and Research Subcommittee, the Massachusetts Environmental Justice Advisory Committee, the Massachusetts Energy Efficiency Advisory Council, the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board, and on the boards of the Environmental Support Center, the Environmental Leadership Program, New World Foundation, and Community Labor United. He is currently a trustee of the Hyams Foundation.