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Community and Renewable Energy Picking Up Speed

Community and Renewable Energy Picking Up Speed


Community power and renewable energy are a good fit. Community power is described as “decentralized generation of electricity,” in Local Clean Energy Alliance’s recently released report, Community Power: Decentralized Renewable Energy in California. Electricity generated from local sources is usually at 20 megawatts (MW) or less. The Energy Collective describes the community power movement as aiming to “decentralize electricity generation, which provides benefits to communities beyond local, clean, and more affordable energy — though those benefits would be enough.” It is a “grassroots movement,” according to the Energy Collective, that is “picking up speed around the country.”

Community power has benefits, including the fact that it is “increasingly cost-effective,” according to the report, when compared to large-scale renewable projects. Other benefits include:

  • Stimulating local economies
  • Minimizing the environmental impact of renewable energy (cite large scale solar projects in the desert)
  • It can be brought on line quickly
  • There is less risk of power disruption because community power projects are close to electrical load

In order for community power to succeed, the report points out, municipal governments, local businesses and communities must work together to “democratize electric power.” In addition there are “three main energy policy legs” that are needed for community power to take off:

  • Community Choice energy: California’s 2002 legislation, AB 117 allows a city, county or combination of both to contract with a commercial service provider to buy electric power for customers in the area. “Community Choice provides a new paradigm in which energy becomes a democratically controlled resource developed and used by a local community, rather than a commodity brokered by an investor owned utility (IOU) for the benefit of its shareholders.”
  • Feed-in tariff programs: Regulatory pricing is one of the biggest barriers to expanding renewable energy, therefore price structures and policies are required that require IOUs and publicly-owned utilities to purchase wholesale renewable energy at standard competitive rates, also known as feed-in tariffs, or prices fed by law for energy fed into the electricity distribution grid.
  • Accountability to public interests from regulatory agencies: State support is needed. The actions of state regulatory agencies will affect the success of community power.

California contains political incentives which encourage community power, according to the report. California’s renewable electricity standard (RES) mandates that all utilities get 33 percent of the electricity from renewable sources by 2020, and that serves as an incentive for developing community power.

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Photo: Timothy Tolle

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45 comments

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11:48PM PDT on Aug 5, 2011

Noted with interest.

4:04AM PDT on Jul 31, 2011

It is about time! mankind has been burning up lubricants, beat that for stupidity!

7:23AM PDT on Jul 27, 2011

Thanks for sharing!

5:24AM PDT on Jul 27, 2011

this great news. maybe all regions on the globe use the wind tunnels to help ease the burden of producing energy the old way. i know they are most likely to cost a fortune to get them up and running/ but i think the benefits will out weigh the cost in the long run

4:06AM PDT on Jul 27, 2011

I love that you can use your reward points also to promote sustainable energy--I have made a donation today already and will make another one as well. Hope that helps it pick up speed even more !!

6:13PM PDT on Jul 26, 2011

thats great news.

4:17PM PDT on Jul 26, 2011

great news

2:34PM PDT on Jul 26, 2011

In the UK those domestic properties that are 'suitable' (that is have a south facing roof), can get PV (solar panels) fitted for free, thanks to a Government subsidy. The UK doesn't get anything like as much sunshine as a lot of the US States, if it is worth if here then surely for those living in the an southern states it has got to be an absolute winner!

11:46AM PDT on Jul 26, 2011

We need to expand the solar lease to every state. This would allow all us poor people to be able to afford solar power with littte to no upfront cost. This would be a game changer and allow us to undermine the power the electric utilities have on us. The price of solar panels is going down, but the price for electricity is going up. This would allow us to decentralize the grid and allow us shut down dirty coal, nuclear, and natural gas plants.

11:18AM PDT on Jul 26, 2011

That's great to read. Renewable energy is the way to go!

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