We recently sat down with Mozine Lowe, Executive Director at the Center for Energy Education, to discuss the role of education and outreach to include more rural communities in the clean energy conversation. This feature is part of NCSEA’s celebration of Women’s History Month and our ongoing focus on elevating exemplary individuals across the clean energy community.
Rooted in Education & Community Engagement
The Center for Energy Education (C4EE) is a non-profit organization focused on creating more points of entry for rural communities to join the renewable energy transition. Its work is centered around clean energy education, job training, and workforce development programs. For nearly a decade, C4EE has been the nexus between solar energy and the community by building honest and trusting relationships that connect commissioners, school boards, non-profit organizations, residents, and students. Mozine Lowe, the Executive Director, helps to connect these dots and uplift C4EE’s rural community engagement initiatives.
Mozine explains that her path has always revolved around a passion for education. After graduating from North Carolina Agriculture & Technical (A&T) State University, she took on positions across California, New Jersey, and Washington D.C., forming collaborative strategies and educational programs focused on organizational development. Lowe’s work experience spanned from Stanford University, AT&T Bells Labs, and Lucent Technologies and enabled her to find effective approaches to create a shared vision within a team.
She explains that joining C4EE in 2016 presented the perfect opportunity to return to her home state of North Carolina and give back to her community. Born and raised in Halifax County, Lowe defined her purpose in life to find effective ways to advocate for a healthier and cleaner environment in her community.
“The center is playing a major role in providing information and education to rural communities,” she said. “We have a chance to do some great things for the state and the future is exciting—I want us to just grab the opportunity and just see how far we can go.”
The Big Picture
The scope of C4EE’s work has evolved since it began working within northeastern NC (as well as Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana). Five years ago, Lowe explained that the challenge was finding channels to present new information about solar farms and sustainability practices to rural communities. Today, however, she emphasizes that more people at all levels of the community are ‘getting it’ and are eager to learn how they can get involved. Awareness has turned to engagement, with the center now exploring ways to create more pathways into the industry.
Lowe and her team are calling on county leaders, commissioners, economic directors, business managers, and superintendents to take the next step in their commitment to include rural residents in the clean energy conversation. Failure to do so, she stresses, can create an inaccessible future.
“A lack of inclusion leads to a loss of perspective. When you don't have the voice of the populations that need change the most, it goes unheard in the planning and the budgeting of dollars. This creates less impactful programs and will continue to leave people out,” according to Lowe.
C4EE is striving to fill this gap between lasting clean energy benefits and underrepresented communities. Part of the effort to address this gap includes building out Green STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) curricula into schools and establishing workforce development programs around the community.
Lowe also highlighted the need to allocate more resources into regions like northeastern NC to entice young professionals to stay local and lead the charge in their backyard. And part of the challenge in retaining young professionals is the lack of well-paid jobs in these Tier 1 (historically underfunded) counties. Thus, C4EE sees information-sharing and workforce development programs as lasting solutions to the energy justice dilemma.
What Does the Future Look Like?
When asked about a successful energy transition, Lowe described a world where all people have access to the entire spectrum of energy— from production to consumption— and a world where everyone carries an equal burden for the process. To accomplish this, she says it is vital to make clean energy information and resources more accessible and affordable to the masses. As an example of injustices that remain, she brought up how households in Halifax County are becoming interested in rooftop solar and electric vehicles but are unable to pursue them because of price barriers. C4EE is striving to change this paradox by enabling more rural residents to join the movement.
“We need to find a way to make information and resources more accessible and affordable to rural counties,” Lowe explains. “Programs built to address energy justice have to be very intentional in their design to be effective.”
Mozine is optimistic about the impact that clean energy can have on the quality of life for the county, state, and country. At the same time, she believes that it is important to be honest with the situation at hand in order to address pervasive issues like the energy burden. For instance, she shared that there’s a real need for more third-party verification and transparency to properly allocate historical levels of clean energy investments. Further, Lowe says that a lack of diversity in rooms where decisions are made can lead to an absence of input during the planning process, ultimately misallocating resources.
Inspiring Lasting Change
Mozine Lowe looks to the next generation for her inspiration. And though she appreciates the work of all the people that have come before, she sees unparalleled promise in the youth that she engages with on a day-to-day basis with C4EE.
She also talks about the ripples that younger generations are having on the clean energy industry. For instance, Mozine highlighted the Radiant Rays, who are the first all women of color climate change ambassadors' group at C4EE. This group participated in a five-week summer internship program at the center and are now carrying the torch of renewable energy to colleges and corporations across the region.
“These students want to learn more about impactful careers to become leaders and protect the environment,” explained Lowe. “They’re going into boardrooms and asking the CEO, ‘What are you doing to make sure there are people that look like us in the clean energy space?’” This year, the group is planning a climate festival and will also be passing the baton to the second cohort of Radiant Rays to continue their mission to protect the planet.
Mozine says we are no longer starting at square one in the pursuit of an equitable clean energy transition. More voices are joining in to advocate for a better tomorrow and C4EE is helping to raise the volume. As she concluded in our conversation, "I get inspired by what I see today because the clean energy conversation is here, and it is present, and it is evolving.”
NCSEA would like to thank Mozine Lowe for all she does with C4EE and for taking the time to speak with our team. To learn more about the Center for Energy Education and how you can get involved with the movement, visit their webpage!