Why I Care About Power Outages Impacting Low-Income Families

By Kelsey Lord, sonnen Channel Manager - Energy Automation

Since the COVID-19 pandemic came about, I’ve been feeling a lot. I’ve been sad for those that have lost family members, lost jobs, and have struggled with their mental health. I am angry and devastated for the adults, children, and animals that have nowhere to escape abuse inside their own home. I tend to be the type of person that takes on the burden of others, and let’s just say I put “empathy” under both the strengths and weaknesses categories on my resume.

Some might say that I care about global warming because I’m a millennial. It’s more than that. I care about climate change because I’m someone who loves the outdoors, so it’s in my nature to preach about all the ways we are hurting the environment. I want to protect this beautiful earth that gives me all my greatest joys.

When I was given the opportunity to work for sonnen — a company that shares my same mission — the decision came easy. It wasn’t until I was completely immersed in our work at sonnen that I realized the impact we are making (and will make) with virtual power plant technology is larger than what I imagined. Not only are we working every day for a clean energy future to protect this incredible planet of ours, but we are working every day to help the people who live on it.

Back to feelings. As we approach California’s annual fire season, a new anxiety builds in me that I’ve never felt before. Coming from Boston, wildfires aren’t a threat I’m used to, or comfortable with. I think about how extended power outages — resulting from fires or shutoffs for public safety — would affect my family if we lose power for days. We’d be inconvenienced, sure. They would likely take a toll on our relationships, and there would be a financial hit, but my family is in a better position than many.

Empty refrigerator; photo courtesy of Enrico Mantegazza on Unsplash

Image courtesy of Enrico Mantegazza on Unsplash.

What really upsets me is thinking about those people who won’t recover. I was reading an article about the impact last year's fires had on low-income families, highlighting the Rios family who “faced hunger and financial crisis as the food in their refrigerators spoiled during October’s unprecedented, deliberate blackouts.” Without enough money to buy more groceries, their refrigerator sat empty. When I read that one in ten residents in these affected areas live below the poverty level, I cried. Food insecurity for so many people is a direct consequence of power outages that we seldom think about. 

Many low-income Californians already struggle to make ends meet, and the threat of wildfires here in California is relentless and very real. It’s in my nature as an empath to feel and find a way to help because I believe we’re all in this together. At sonnen, we have a unique opportunity to provide resilient, affordable, and reliable power for low income residents in fire-zones. If you work or volunteer in the affordable housing space, let's talk about how sonnen’s virtual power plant technology can help residents become more energy secure.

Published: 05/19/2020