Metro Justice Organizer: Pandemic Exposes Need for Democratic Control Over Energy Rates, Policy

(WXIR-Rochester) Organizers had been hard at work for the last several months preparing for the public launch on Earth Day of a new campaign demanding "energy democracy."

The COVID-19 lockdown and subsequent cancellation of the Earth Day march where organizers had planned to unveil their demands means they've had to change their strategy.

But Mohini Sharma, lead organizer for Metro Justice, the organization spearheading the Rochester for Energy Democracy campaign, says the pandemic has actually served to highlight the need for greater control over utility rates and policy.

"Millions of New Yorkers right now are at risk of overcoming a public health crisis just to enter a debt crisis instead," Sharma says.

"What the COVID-19 pandemic is really exposing is how woefully and dangerously inadequate so many of our institutions have always been in serving what’s good for people. Our energy system is ruled by private oil and gas companies and investor-owned utilities.”

As a remedy, the Rochester for Energy Democracy (R.E.D.) is calling for a public takeover of the services currently provided by Rochester Electric & Gas, and the creation of community-owned clean energy projects.

Sharma recently spoke with WXIR's Darien Lamen about R.E.D.'s demands for cancelling utility payments during the pandemic, extending the shut-off moratorium, and building a movement to take democratic control over our shared energy resources.