Solstice Initiative recently spoke with Gregory King at TSK Energy Solutions LLC to learn how his organization and community are building grassroots climate resilience through their work and what motivates him to be so engaged with our Community Advisory Board.
Gregory King is an entrepreneur and innovator with over 25 years of experience in strategic planning, business development, and executive management of technology focused businesses. He is currently the Managing Director of TSK Energy Solutions LLC, a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) focused on delivering energy innovations to commercial buildings. At TSK Energy Solutions, Mr. King’s work is focused on the application of IOT, network control systems and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in next generation building automation systems. This work includes advance lighting systems (LED 2.0), and cloud-based software to support autonomous building operations and predictive analytics. Mr King also works as a consultant on clean energy workforce development, JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) and environmental justice.
Gregory King’s Introduction
I would summarize my work from these three points: energy innovation, workforce development, and environmental justice. I do consultancy work, project development work, and focus on how we can diversify the clean energy workforce. I participate in quite a few Community Advisory Boards to use my efforts and influence to help shift how folks think about clean energy not just on benefits but also through job creation and economic benefit.
1. Why is it integral in the climate crisis to advocate for community-based solutions?
We are in a crisis where the clock is ticking and by some accounts, we are already too late.
My father used to say, “If you don’t take care of your body, where else will you live?” and that’s pretty much the case for our planet. We have been poisoning the planet with greenhouse gas emissions for a very long time. So this work is all about recognizing that it takes a village to get to where we want to go. This is an opportunity for us to uplift underrepresented communities by bringing them along in advocating for policies and also just supporting the work like a war effort where we are mobilizing all communities of people for the fight of climate change and decarbonization.
2. What are some of the biggest takeaways you have learned throughout your career in the renewable energy space?
One of the biggest takeaways that have driven my point of view is that clean energy is not just about energy itself but also an unprecedented opportunity for economic development and creating jobs up and down the skill set spectrum for all different kinds of stakeholders. Can think of engineering, technicians, and construction folks.
Historically, we have seen energy as either a producer or consumer or employer but as we have evolved, we now have this potential for consumers to be producers (community solar, rooftop solar, electrical storage, electrical vehicles, etc.). Gives a whole new paradigm in this climate economy where rather than paying for a utility bill you can actually get a check. To me, that’s really the core of why we need to uplift this work and why this is such an important opportunity for JEDI in this space because of the history of significant disparities in job opportunities and living wages. And this clean energy challenge is the opportunity to create millions of jobs where you can uplift underrepresented neighborhoods.
For Environmental Justice communities, we won’t essentially get our piece of the pie for economic development and prosperity unless we fight for it, which is part of the reason why I am so bullish on advocating for legislation and policies and funding that help to address these historic disparities to make these systems of privilege a thing of the past.
3. How do your lived and shared experiences impact and show up in your work? (i.e. personal initiatives or interests/actions your organization is working on)
For my own personal journey, my mother was one of 13 kids and my father worked in the steel mills in his initial career before going back to school. My brother and I lived in the housing projects next to the steel mills and I was asthmatic as a kid as a result. So, for me, it couldn’t get any more personal from my perspective and why there is so much work to do.
That’s why, one thing I am very excited about is the idea of community ownership in community solar projects so we are not just getting the energy burden reductions and environmental benefits of clean energy but that we are also generating income for community stakeholders.
4. What has been your experience thus far with Solstice Initiative’s Community Advisory Board? How has your unique perspective meshed with others to drive collective action and progress on the project?
My experience has been a very positive one! Hats off to Solstice Initiative for really leaning in to understand how we can make an entire decision-making process typically involved in a solar development project more community-focused and community centric. This is hard work and I have been impressed with the quality of the meeting facilitation and the frameworks that have been established to help stakeholders weigh in on important decisions such as – workforce, partners, siting, etc. I have been very impressed and grateful to be able to participate in the CAB and see how, over time, the group has gelled and been able to come to consensus. A great example of being able to democratize a decision on something so complex like community solar in an urban setting.
5. You have been incredibly helpful to Solstice Initiative throughout this process, what is it about our work that motivates you to be so engaged?
Comes back to the desire to make community solar development truly community-driven rather than the typical goal of financial gain that has a focus on a different set of impacts that benefits the community where it gets them involved like – clean energy jobs for local people, providing ways for mobilizing and organizing. All of these are attributes of Solstice Initiative’s work which is why I volunteered on the CAB and why I have been an active participant trying to help everywhere I can. It’s such important work and we need success models that we can promote elsewhere for folks to understand that it is possible with the right set of ingredients.
6. Is there anything else that you would like us to share with our supporters in this upcoming newsletter?
I want to remind folks of the need for more policy/advocacy work to create and carve out programs like the Clean Energy Equity Program. Unfortunately, the community solar portion of that bill got stripped out in the conference committee.
It’s essential to continue elevating people’s minds and be out there getting our government partners to create incentive programs that align with this idea of community ownership of solar. And that for me is the Call of Action! We can make it there but we just need to educate our legislators on why this is important and why this should be subsidized and funded by taxpayer dollars because it is a way of returning benefits and value back to the community.
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