This is a presentation given to the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society in October 2011. With costs dropping rapidly and value rising, solar can make enormous contributions to Minnesota’s electricity system and economy. That’s the spirit of this presentation ILSR Senior Researcher John Farrell gave last week to the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society on the potential… Continue reading
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About John Farrell
John Farrell directs the Energy Self-Reliant States and Communities program at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and he focuses on energy policy developments that best expand the benefits of local ownership and dispersed generation of renewable energy. More
The low risk and transparency of CLEAN Contract Programs can provide states with more solar at a lower cost than solar renewable energy certificate (SREC) programs, says a new report released last week. Produced by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), CLEAN v. SREC: Finding the More Cost-Effective Solar Policy finds that an otherwise identical… Continue reading
As Americans transition their electricity system to the 21st century, they should ask this question. Does it make sense to pursue strategies such as accelerating the development of new high-voltage power lines that reinforce an outdated paradigm of electricity delivery, or should scarce energy dollars be spent to add new clean, local energy to the… Continue reading
In choosing policies to finance solar power, U.S. states have chosen between two major options: solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) and CLEAN Contracts. But few legislatures have been armed with data on the cost-effectiveness of these strategies. The result is a mix of state and local policies with varying levels of efficacy. Neither program has… Continue reading
In just three weeks, citizens of Boulder, CO, will vote on whether to begin a big, formal process to unplug from Xcel Energy’s system and plug into local energy self-reliance. The vote to form a municipal electric utility could set a precedent for communities across the United States to keep millions of dollars local instead of sending them to remote electric utilities each year.
The vote on ballot measures 2B and 2C is the culmination of a multi-year struggle by the city of Boulder meet the Kyoto greenhouse gas emission targets by getting less coal power and more renewable energy from its investor-owned utility.
At every turn, the utility has stalled local efforts.
When the city first considered municipalization, Xcel offered to finance and build a local smart grid but has since been allowed by the state’s public utility commission to charge Coloradans for significant cost overruns. When the city asked Xcel to bring in more clean energy, the utility offered to build a new wind plant and import its power from across the state only if Boulder citizens agreed to pay more when the wind blew and pay when it didn’t, too. Despite the ill nature of the offer, the city offered to put it on the ballot along with a vote to municipalize, but Xcel refused, demanding that the city also offer citizens a separate “status quo” measure.
In contrast, a Boulder-owned utility offers enormous clean energy and economic opportunity without having to beg a big, private company. The city could increase renewable energy production by 40% from multiple, local sources without increasing rates, according to a citizen-led peer reviewed study. The economic value of local energy ownership would multiply within the city’s economy to as much as $350 million a year, according to research by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
But with $100 million a year in revenues from Boulder ratepayers on the line, Xcel’s fight is getting as dirty as its nearby Cherokee coal plant. Xcel has dumped over $450,000 into a vote no campaign, 10 times the expenditures of the grassroots groups supporting the municipalization ballot measure. The utility’s front group has flogged a web advertisement that falsely asserts that electricity will be unreliable if the city has control, even though 1 in 7 Americans gets their (reliable) electricity from municipal utilities. Xcel has posted job notices on light poles offering residents up to $12 an hour to work as “grassroots” utility flaks. And in a purely spiteful move, Xcel also succeeded in banning Boulder resident Leslie Glustrom from participating at the Public Utilities Commission, where she had asked tough questions about Xcel’s new coal power plants and proposed rate increases.
Locals are fighting back. Citizens for Boulder’s Clean Energy Future has organized a crack team of technical and financial experts to model the impact of the municipal utility and is pounding the pavement to counter Xcel’s campaign of misinformation. The coalition has received endorsements from dozens of local elected officials and businesses, two local newspapers, and nearly one thousand residents. Even President Obama’s former green jobs advisor Van Jones starred in a video endorsing Boulder’s effort for local energy self-reliance.
The battle for local control isn’t just in Boulder. Recently a number of Massachusetts towns have pursued municipal electric plants when the private electric company took too long to restore power after Hurricane Irene. And in nearby Longmont, CO, citizens may vote to use their existing fiber optic network to provide better internet broadband services (if citizens can overcome the $250,000 being spent by private providers CenturyLink and Comcast).
The stakes are high. Buying electricity from Xcel sends $100 million out of the Boulder economy each year, and helps perpetuate a centrally-controlled grid reliant on coal-fired power (and often hostile to wind power). Ratepayers across America may not have the chance to weigh in on Boulder’s vote this November, but they should watch intently (and donate if they like), because Boulder citizens may be firing the first “shot heard round the world” for local control of their clean energy future.
Feed-in tariffs are responsible for two-thirds of the world’s wind power (64 percent) and almost 90 percent of the world’s solar power. With simplified grid connections, long term contracts and attractive prices for development, that’s policy that works.
Click to see more of our feed-in tariff (also known as CLEAN Contracts in the U.S.) coverage on Energy Self-Reliant States or see some of our other work on the subject:
Feed-in Tariffs in America: Driving the Economy with Renewable Energy Policy that Works
Source for pie charts: Jacobs, David. Applicability of the German FIT to the Taiwanese policy framework. (Presentation to the International Symposium on Germany’s Renewable Energy Development and Power-purchasing Policy Trends, Taipei, Taiwan, 9/28/11).
The U.S. Northwest could get an additional 12 percent of its electricity from local wind power if 1 in 8 of the region’s cars used batteries.
That’s the conclusion of a new study from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories investigating how electric vehicles can help smooth the introduction of more variable renewable energy into the grid system.
The study examines the Northwest Power Pool, an area encompassing roughly seven states in the Northwest. With around 2.1 million electrified vehicles, the grid could support an additional 10 gigawatts of wind power. With electricity demand from those seven states of about 250 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, the additional 10 gigawatts of wind would provide 12 percent of the annual electricity demand (roughly 30 billion kilowatt-hours per year).
The results are no doubt applicable to other regions of the country. In fact, at least 33 states have enough wind power to meet 10 percent or more of their electricity needs and if the same portion of vehicles (13%) were electrified in those 33 states, it would allow them to add a collective 100 gigawatts of wind power, meeting nearly 14% of their electricity needs.
In the long-run, a fully electrified vehicle fleet would theoretically – just do the math! – provide enough balancing power for a 100% renewable electricity system. And since the large majority of those vehicle trips would be made on batteries alone, it would be a significant dent in American reliance on foreign oil for transportation.
Further reading: learn a bit more about electric vehicles helping wind power in Denmark, too.
Hat tip to Midwest Energy News for the original story.
At least 32 states can get 25% or more of their electricity from wind power within their own borders. This map is updated from our 2010 report and namesake, Energy Self-Reliant States. Click here for a larger version.
The only updated figure is Maryland, due to a new report on its offshore wind potential.
I gave a presentation last night to a public forum hosted by Think Again MN on maximizing the economic returns from the state’s clean energy resources. I was joined by Lynn Hinkle of the Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association (and former union labor representative) and George Crocker from the North American Water Office (and passionate community organizer). The whole video is below, with my presentation starting around 24:00.
To view just the slide show of my presentation, click below:
A presentation I gave last Friday to the Arizona Corporation Commission.