Unitarian Universalists are reminded of their responsibility to the Earth by the UUA’s Seventh Principle:
“Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”
Like many other initiatives, First U’s commitment to Environmental Justice isn’t created on paper. Instead, it evolved from years of concern by UU’s for the endless attacks on our environment.
Lately, two projects encourage First U members to reduce global warming by installing energy-saving devices and encouraging church members to advocate for environmental justice.
LGE-KU – More Solar and Less Gas
Throughout 2022-23, the Environmental Justice Team worked against the local utility LG&E-KU’s effort to build two new gas-fueled power plants – a project that would force Kentucky to continue burning fossil fuels for electrical power for at least the next 40 years. Here is a summary of what LG&E-KU requested and the PSC’s decision:
In late 2022, LGE-KU filed case 2022-00402 with the Public Service Commission (PSC) to shut down multiple fossil fuel electric generation units, including coal units. LGE-KU requested these be replaced with only a small amount of solar (877MW) and 2 new gas-fired turbines. State legislators passed a law in the May 2023 making the retirement of coal plants even harder.
Nevertheless, after hearing from many across the state, including First U congregants, the PSC ruled in November 2023:
- some coal-fired plants could be retired as requested
- only one gas-fired turbine (Mill Creek) could be built.
- The Mercer and Marion solar projects (220MW of 877MW requested) were approved LGE/KU stated they were having trouble financing the other solar.
Everybody got something they wanted, and the PSC left room for coal plants to be replaced with clean renewable energy. The PSC noted, modeling by LGE showed that solar was cost effective in 3 of 6 fuel scenarios, and in most scenarios when considering future gas prices and Greenhouse Gas regulation.
The Solar Array Project
It’s not something that members, visitors or guests notice when they enter First Unitarian Church. The solar arrays are settled comfortably on the building’s roof, carefully positioned to catch the sun’s rays and convert them to energy. Installed in October 2013, the first solar array of 10 panels is evidence of how this congregation chose to invest in the future by becoming a responsible member of the community, reducing our dependence on energy produced from fossil fuels. Destructive mining practices, including mountaintop removal mining, coupled with overwhelming evidence of the health hazards resulting from burning coal are social justice issues that the congregation could not overlook.
Before adopting solar energy the congregation undertook efforts to reduce everyday energy consumption.
Since 2010, the church has:
Installed 56 solar panels on the church roof.
replaced older appliances with new energy-efficient models;
installed LED lighting throughout the church building;
installed solar shades in rooms;
collected cans and other scrap metal to fund the purchase of energy-saving appliances;
monitored heating- and cooling-usage on its 10 thermostats and LG&E’s Smart Device.
The solar array converts DC electricity to AC by two separate smart devices that also monitor solar electric generation. One, is for our first solar array, Enphase, and the other for the new array, Fronius. Click on them to show their current electric generation. While they have a different look, each has options to select historical information too. This information provides educational opportunities for our church and the whole community to demonstrate the effectiveness of solar electricity. A drone video of both arrays can be seen here. website that allows the congregation to monitor the collection,
These efforts don’t just support the church’s needs on Sunday mornings. The church complex, which includes both the church and Heywood House, are occupied seven days a week. The building houses non-profits, and hosts weddings, musical events, meetings and other functions for non-profit groups and others throughout the year.
These actions align with the core values of Unitarian Universalism and is a way to bring our faith into the world. By adopting solar energy collection and modifying building equipment to save energy, we are setting an example for our congregation, our community and other Louisville-area faith communities that might be considering how they could also reduce their carbon footprint by using sustainable energy sources such as solar.
The Team for the Seventh Principle
In June of 2020 Board to authorized the Team for the Seventh Principle. They called for this new group because they recognized:
The fragile and interdependent state of our Earth and all living things;
The need to protect and maintain the quality of our common life-giving natural resources such as water, soil, and air;
The need to join with others to bring forth a sustainable society based on respect for our planet and all its life-giving resources; and
Our universal human rights to a clean environment.
After detailing the numerous environmental problems facing the world, we concluded that First Unitarian Church members support the Seventh Principle and share its concern for the planet.
The Team will involve the congregation in several areas:
Make our sacred space environmentally sound,
Encourage members to use environmentally sound principles in their lives, and
Work in the broader community to support efforts for environmentally sustainable world.
Make our sacred space environmentally sound by:
Increasing reliance on solar panel output
Submitting monthly energy usage reports in online church newsletters
Creating a “green use” of the church instruction sheet for church members and renters.
Encourage members of the congregation to:
Attend Sunday service for Earth Day,
Participate in Louisville Earth Walk
Read periodic updates in the church bulletins
Work in the Broader Community through:
Kentucky Unitarian Universal Justice Action Network (KUUJAN)
Louisville Climate Action Network (LCAN)
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth’s voter registration (KFTC)
Kentucky Interfaith Power & Light (KIPL)
Louisville’s Renewable Energy Alliance (REAL)
We’d love to have you join us in this important work. Contact [email protected] for information on meetings and other gatherings.
IMAGE BY: https://www.uua.org/worship/words/image/seven-principles-wheel