Daniel Tait is the Executive Director of Energy Alabama and fits into his position as a reputable and environmentally conscious leader. His amiable disposition has made him an ally for communities and an influential educator on sustainable energy.
Energy Alabama defines sustainable energy as energy that meets the needs of the present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable energy is about finding clean, renewable sources of energy—sources that renew themselves rather than depletable sources.
Tait stated that his days working at Energy Alabama range from simple tasks like answering emails to exciting days involved in litigations and courtrooms against utility companies to get answers on how they spent customers’ money.
Tait says that his favorite responsibility at his job is his commitment to communities.
“One of the most fun things about my job is getting out into the community and talking to people.”
Founded in 2014, Energy Alabama emphasizes clean energy, education, and advocacy by teaching others how to save money on skyrocketing utility bills and produce their own clean and sustainable energy.
“Energy conservation and efficiency; That’s anything from getting people to save energy and spend less on their utility bills to switching to cleaner and more affordable energy sources like renewable energy and trying to electrify the transportation system,” said Tait.
They do this by meeting people in their homes, schools, and businesses to educate them about their options when deciding how to energize their communities. Tait has been featured as a panelist for numerous environmental conferences, assemblies, and podcasts about how people can independently implement sustainable energy. He was recently featured in the short film Taxing The Sun, directed by Gillian Harill and premiered by The Alabama Rivers Alliance Southern Exposure Films.
Energy Alabama pushes toward educating as many people as possible to help create significant scale change across the state and change the unfair policies by conglomerates like Southern Company, the parent company, to Alabama’s largest energy provider, Alabama Power.
“People were building crap faster than we could go back in and fix it. The only way we were going to achieve meaningful change at scale was to go into education and advocacy to change the policies,” said Tait. “We had a lot of bad policies in Alabama that we’re trying to get out of the way, and we need to get good policies in place to help all these things that we want to see from a clean energy perspective.”
Energy Alabama makes good on its promises of advocating for people by constantly monitoring policies, gas prices, and utility bill charges and flagging any discrepancies in utility operations. Their advocacy holds energy companies accountable for their promises and ensures they treat their customers ethically and fairly. Tait stated that his proudest achievement within Energy Alabama was the action his team took during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020 Energy Alabama fought Alabama Power to halt the disconnection of services for customers with outstanding utility bills while the country was on lockdown. Because the public was closed, many were barred from working, left unemployed, or quarantined from COVID. Worrying about disconnected utilities during a global pandemic is unethical since no one was prepared for such an alarming event as much as it was dangerous.
“We don’t have good disconnection criteria in place [regarding] how we handle this in general, much less inside the bounds of a pandemic,” said Tait.
By calling out bad practices and taking legal action alongside environmental justice organizations like GASP, Energy Alabama successfully halted Alabama Power disconnections for over six months while also exposing the company for overcharging consumers. During 2020 gas prices fell dramatically. Unfortunately, Alabama Power’s utility prices did not. Alabama Power collected millions in overcharges from unsuspecting customers. They were forced to return the mismanaged funds due to Energy Alabama’s initiative to report the company’s excessive profits to the Public Service Commission.
The tasks Energy Alabama take on are difficult in states like Alabama, where more power is given to business monopolies instead of the people. Some of this power given to these businesses runs further than the products they provide and instead leaks into state laws and policies and affects overall public well-being. It is common to find links in cash flow, board seatings, investments, and political relationships between these businesses and the Alabama legislature.
“It should be clear for Alabamians that we need change at the power company, “said Tait. “The power company is not somebody that you can vote for. You do get to vote for who is on the Public Service Commission and if you get good people who take their duties seriously and hold the utility company accountable.”
These links are, at their core, selfish and usually motivated to make some people more prosperous while taking away from unsuspecting consumers.
“I’ve never seen a thing that the power company wants that they don’t get,” said Tait.
To make matters worse, many times, these disadvantages are unavoidable. Miseducation, concealment of practices, and uncontested re-elections lead to policies being misunderstood by the public and abused by commercial companies that should not have power in Alabama politics.
“Alabama Power has some of the highest bills for folks all across the country, and that’s unconscionable in a state like Alabama that deals with persistent poverty; meanwhile, they’re one of the most profitable utility companies in all of America,” said Tate. “They are literally profiting off some of the poorest people in America at an extortionate rate.”
Tait is vocal about naming companies that use unsuspecting customers to line pockets and personal political interests. He says his motivation to call out wrongdoing is because of the good he knows that can come from implementing clean energy and wanting better for fellow Alabamians.
“The challenges in this state on this issue are pretty clear,” said Tait. “But we know exactly what they are, and that is the Public Service Commission and Alabama Power. Those two entities are full stop blocking everything good in clean energy in Alabama”.
Tait says he will continue fighting for clean energy in Alabama with Energy Alabama because he believes that people should not be exploited and deserve truth and honesty.
“We’re not scared of them because they are big powerful entities. We know they’re up to no good, and you have to speak truth to power,” said Tait. “They may have political power right now and earn lots of money for their shareholders off of the backs of regular people in Alabama, but at the end of the day, we know that we’re right, and our position is morally right. We will prevail. That may take years, but we’re in it for the right reasons and the long haul”.
The best way to start implementing clean energy in Alabama is to utilize resources from organizations from Energy Alabama that can help residents investigate their utility charges, find options to energize their properties, or teach them about the benefits of sustainable energy. You can find more information about Energy Alabama by following their social media and visiting their website.
“We have to call out the worst actors who abuse their positions of power in order to galvanize change,” said Tait. “At the end of the day, it’s going to take regular people of all backgrounds to say ‘that’s enough,’ ‘we want better.'”