Community Voices: DOE selection of two Kern projects is a huge recognition of the potential our future holds

Liz Rozell is the director of the Bakersfield College Valley Strong Energy Institute and is the college’s former vice president of instruction.

We have always known that Kern County is a sleeping giant when it comes to the nation’s clean energy future. Well, the giant is stirring from its slumber.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy announced its selection of not one but two local projects to be part of an innovative new program to provide expertise to 22 communities for assistance transitioning to cleaner, greener energy sources.

In partnership with the County of Kern, the DOE will provide technical expertise to develop a Clean Energy and Carbon Management Business Park that will make Kern County a national Center of Excellence in clean energy and carbon management. This is an incredible show of faith on behalf of the federal government in Kern County, and an opportunity to develop a new economy right here around carbon management that could be replicated on a national, even global scale.


A second project with the city of Bakersfield will deploy microgrid technology to help our low-income communities that are disproportionately burdened with high utility costs and to pursue decarbonization efforts with the agriculture industry.

Kern Community College District is proud to be a partner in both these efforts.

So what exactly is a technical assistance grant? Instead of awarding money, this opportunity will provide participating communities with access to the nation’s foremost experts in energy, economic development and other technologies who will work closely with our local planners and leaders to strategize, plan and map out the best options for our community to most effectively deploy clean energy.


Technical assistance frequently poses a major barrier for this type of work to happen at a community-level because the technologies are so nascent and cutting edge that only a handful of people understand how to implement it successfully. Going forward, this valuable assistance will provide a significant leg up when it comes time to build these projects. With well-designed, sound plans, and broad-based community support behind them, we stand a much better chance of winning funding from the historic investments and opportunities coming available through the $1.3 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

You might also be wondering why a community college district is involved in this process. The answer is that community colleges are the primary workforce development engines in California and have an important role to play in developing our clean energy infrastructure. We are uniquely positioned to provide the job training in new career fields that developments in clean energy technology are creating every day. We have strong relationships with local industry, the trades and community service organizations who will all have input into this development of a new energy infrastructure, and as a minority-serving institution, we will be key in ensuring the requirement that underrepresented groups reap the benefits and have access to the good jobs this effort will create.

In fact, over the past two years, Kern Community College District and Bakersfield College initiated our own engagement with the esteemed National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory so we can begin to position our community colleges for the future we know is coming. We can no longer afford to sit and wait for jobs to come to us; we must be part of bringing and developing future careers.

Together with these prestigious institutions, we have collaborated on community education and workforce development efforts. We have hosted NREL and LLNL experts in community webinars to explain emerging trends with solar and agriculture, alternative fuels and carbon capture and storage to understand where innovation is going and what the future might hold. The very day the technical assistance grants were announced an engineer from LLNL spoke at a webinar we hosted on microgrids which was moderated by a researcher from NREL.

We are so excited to see and be a part of this next step forward with the county and city, and the countless other local governments and stakeholder groups who make up the broad coalition moving forward this critically important work. Our hopes of a sustainable, resilient and equitable future for our community depend on what comes next. But for today, as our chancellor states every week in her blog, the sun shines bright over Kern County. Congratulations to our communities on this deserved win.

Liz Rozell is the director of the Bakersfield College Valley Strong Energy Institute and is the college’s former vice president of instruction.

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Kern Citizens for Energy