Chair’s Post: Embracing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to Secure our Energy Future

by: Jackie Sargent, Chair of LPPC and General Manager of Austin Energy

To provide customers a voice in their energy future, public power is embracing diversity, equity and inclusion.

Public power is already at the forefront of innovation and transformation. We are developing cleaner energy, improving cybersecurity and increasing reliability in the face of more extreme weather conditions in our changing times.

Amidst these progressions, we are seeing our customer base change, too. Census data shows multiple states now have majority-minority populations. The nation is on track to join this trend. We are diversifying in race, ethnicity, household type, family makeup, socio-economic background, primary language and cultural identity, just to name a few.

These facts make it clear: we must do so much more for our energy future than build it and assume our customers will come. We need to meet them where they are.

In their book, From Athletics to Engineering: 8 Ways to Support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for All, Johnnie Johnson and Michael Webber explain we all have a role to play, and the first step starts with each of us. If we love our neighbors, talk about it, check our biases, expand our comfort zone, build diverse teams, collaborate, and align actions with goals and values, then we will discover we are closer than we think to making real progress.

To pave the way for these first steps, the Large Public Power Council launched the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group last year. This group fosters collaboration, shares industry knowledge, discusses common issues and identifies best practices. For example, as battery storage and distributed energy become more common, how do we ensure more than just those who can afford it have access to the technology and opportunities it brings? How are we purposeful in avoiding an energy divide like the digital divide?

Solutions will take time, but we will never find answers if we don’t come together to ask these tough questions. Through the DE&I working group, LPPC is helping public power normalize equity conversations, organize capacities for diversity, and operationalize data and tools to foster inclusion. This framework promotes a cultural shift for public power to fully realize our mission to safely provide customer access to reliable and affordable energy.

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