The Energy Democracy Leadership Institute (E.D.L.I)

Shiva Patel
3 min readJun 28, 2020

By Shiva Patel and Connie Leeper

With the ongoing COVID-19 and racial violence pandemics, we are amidst an opportunity for bold, systemic transformation. Renowned author and activist Arundhati Roy has recently familiarized the notion of the “pandemic as a portal.” For us, one of these portals to a more transformative and just world is the launching of the Energy Democracy Leadership Institute (EDLI) in North Carolina (albeit virtual for now).

EDLI is a recent creation of the NC Climate Justice Collective, with support from NC WARN and an incredible Indigenous youth organizer and leader, Jorden Revels. The demand for and emergence of EDLI can also be attributed to and contextualized within the broader movement for Energy Democracy, including leadership from community-based organizations and alliances like the Climate Justice Alliance (Energy Democracy working group), Emerald Cities Collaborative, Local Clean Energy Alliance, the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program and the Partnership for Southern Equity.

The folks behind EDLI believe that local communities should be able to own and make decisions about electricity; no community should be treated as a “sacrifice zone” where corporations are allowed to pollute our environment and exploit our people. In this spirit, EDLI is creating opportunities for people in the community to speak up and speak out about the problems they are facing from Duke Energy’s coal ash and its proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the forest destruction from Enviva wood pellet facilities.

Essentially, EDLI is an energy and climate justice grassroots organizing and leadership program to:

  1. Stop the bad and
  2. Build the new energy economy.

EDLI launched on Saturday, June 27th and will run for 6 months with an intergenerational and BIPOC cohort of 21 emerging leaders from 8 eastern counties in North Carolina. The 8 counties represented are all counties where environmental racism, chronic disinvestment and climate disasters are pervasive issues.

They are then amplified and evidenced by the trifecta of fracked gas projects, coal ash pollution and forest destruction that are causing huge cumulative impacts on BIPOC communities. This is the next wave of leadership we need for intersectional, grassroots organizing.

In such trying times, efforts and leaders like this give us tangible and visionary hope. The work that has been happening behind the scenes — community outreach, curriculum design, constant adaptation, etc — is a true labor of love with years of forethought and collaborative experience.

We are thrilled to be launching the Energy Democracy Leadership Institute, and hope that it will continue to inspire and influence other local trainings in cities nationwide. We look forward to sharing our progress over the coming year.

Shiva Patel is a MBA student at UC Berkeley, Haas (Class of 2022), focused on the intersection of (and bridges between) climate justice and transformative finance/investments.

Connie Leeper is the Organizing Director at NC WARN and a Co-Founder of the North Carolina Climate Justice Collective.



Shiva Patel

An MBA student at UC Berkeley, Haas (Class of 2022), focused on the intersection of (and bridges between) climate justice and finance.