Plans to Include Incinerator in Microgrid Extinguished
The microgrid project, which we have written about previously, is theoretically a good thing for the city. The project would create a backup system for key infrastructure in the event the main electrical grid goes down as it did in several municipalities as a result of superstorm Sandy in 2012.
The problem with the project as originally proposed was that it was tied to the local trash incinerator, Covanta, which would serve as the main supplier of electricity. As critics of this aspect of the plan pointed out, tying Covanta to such a major piece of infrastructure was a way of propping up the aging facility and would ensure its continued existence in this environmental justice community for many decades to come.
The multitude of community meetings, strategy sessions, interviews with media, attendance at city council and county commissioner meetings that our coalition of partners have participated in have all been with the intention of removing Covanta from this plan. This microgrid is an opportunity for Camden to act in a forward thinking manner and make an investment in cleaner electricity. Any current investments in energy infrastructure needs to be implemented with the goal of both increasing equity and reducing carbon emissions and luckily there are many existing solar + battery project examples to draw inspiration from.
After months of strife, a few weeks ago we received the unexpected but welcome announcement that Covanta has been removed from the project! In the end, this happy result may have been more due to Covanta’s high bid price for trash contracts from the county rather than an example of the government listening to its constituents. However, the community certainly made clear that the incinerator was an extremely unpopular option and is very pleased with this outcome. This was the first environmental justice issue in which CFET took an active stance and we are proud to have been a part of this small but positive outcome. With the incinerator no longer under consideration, we are now looking forward to see how progressive the resulting microgrid proposal will turn out to be.
About the Grantee
The Center for Environmental Transformation (CFET) manages three gardens in Camden. CFET has an innovative youth program that uses urban agriculture to develop young minds and teaches healthy eating. We host service learning retreats focused on the environment and food justice and have recently began focusing on community organizing around environmental justice issues in our neighborhood.