Community ownership of power is the most promising path toward equity, democracy and renewable energy.
Highland Park, Mich., is a small, majority-black community of three square miles, nestled in the center of Detroit, with some of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the country. It’s suffered a series of indignities and setbacks over the years: a state emergency management takeover of the city and surrounding areas; a state takeover of the public water infrastructure; public school closures; and a collapse of tax revenue fueled by white flight, fossil-fuel-driven suburban development, and the rapid decline of the housing market and auto industries.
Residents were hit again when, in 2011, an armada of flatbed trucks with workers bearing DTE Energy logos moved through the city and started pulling streetlight poles out of the ground. Residents watched from their porches as their infrastructure was taken away in real time.
DTE Energy, the area’s investor-owned monopoly energy utility, repossessed over 1,000 streetlights from Highland Park because of $4 million in unpaid electric bills accumulated over many years.