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solar and flag - flickr Deval Patrick
Featured Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Jul 2, 2014

Celebrate Independence with 3 Steps Toward Energy Self-Reliance

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/celebrate-independence-3-steps-energy-self-reliance/

Being from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, I’m often asked, “You want everyone off-grid and independent with their own solar array and a battery, right?”

In a word, no.

But our mission of economic and energy self-reliance has several similarities to the kind of (economic) independence being sought by England’s American colonists in the 1770s and celebrated this week. And in the spirit of that overlap, I’d like to offer three ways Americans can celebrate their independence by increasing their energy and economic self-reliance.

Step 1: Do What You Can, Recruit Your Friends

The citizen “meter watchers” of SOUL Wisconsin find that modest changes can cut electricity consumption by 13% or more, saving $140 per year. They find that with some pretty low energy tasks like swapping out inefficient light bulbs, using power saving power strips and inexpensive light timers, or putting off-the-shelf foam insulation on hot water pipes, households can get high energy savings. Their energy tracking tool shows kilowatt-hours and dollars saved, and also greenhouse gas emissions avoided, from your energy conservation efforts.

If you like energy saving and reducing carbon emissions, chances are your friends will, too.  Expand the impact (and savings) by recruiting your friends, your neighbors, your colleagues.

Step 2: Generate Your Own Energy

Even the best conservation practices can only do so much, and chances are you’re still sending a sizable sum to your utility company every month.  If you’re one of the lucky 1 in 4 residents that owns a sunny rooftop, you can invest in solar power to reduce or eliminate your solar bill.  Join your neighbors in a bulk purchase or finance a system with a crowd-funded loan.

Maybe you lack a sunny rooftop, but you’re in one of the few states with policy supporting community-based renewable energy. That local grocery store would be just the place for a solar array owned by you and your neighbors.

Step 3: Organize to Change the Rules

Unfortunately, somewhere between steps 1 and 2 most Americans will find that generating their own power often requires an exercise in political power. Your utility company may erect significant barriers, charge high fees, or pay pennies for energy from your own solar array. It may not allow community-based energy projects at all. It’s because they’re reluctant to see the inevitable, monumental shift in power generation – from large-scale fossil fuel power plants to decentralized renewable energy systems – result in a similarly monumental shift in ownership of the energy system, from them to you.

Some utilities will hide behind the spurious “technical limitations” of the electricity system or the purportedly low cost of their existing, dirty power plants.  They’ll fight good policy like community solar, feed-in tariffs, incentives for clean energy, and net metering.*

And that’s why there’s something to be learned from the English colonists nearly 250 years ago.  When your (East India) company is giving you a bad deal, it’s time to dump them.

 

Photo Credit: Deval Patrick

*Some utilities embrace the notion of self-reliance.

 

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Featured Article, Resource filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Jun 5, 2014

Same Price, More Renewables. San Diego’s Fight for Community Choice – Episode 23 of Local Energy Rules

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/price-renewables-san-diegos-fight-community-choice-episode-23-local-energy-rules/

“San Diego and its community choice energy district would be able to offer a diverse energy mix with all of the solar, biodiesel, biogas, and energy storage resources that we have in San Diego.  A product that is price competitive and yet at the same time would strive for and achieve a higher level of… Continue reading

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Featured Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Mar 19, 2014

Distributed Renewable Energy Under Fire

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/distributed-renewable-energy-fire/

I developed this map as a side project while I was working on explaining the value of solar and its potential role in addressing conflicts between utilities and customers over distributed renewable energy like solar. I’ve received several updates since it was originally published, so here’s the updated map. For some context on the contention… Continue reading

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Featured Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Mar 26, 2014

Energy Storage: The Next Charge for Distributed Energy

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/energystoragethenextchargefordistributedenergy/

Update 5/2/14: titles for Fig. 2 and 3 in the report were mistakenly switched and are now corrected.   Energy storage promises to change the electricity system during the next decade, as fundamentally as distributed renewable energy has in the last decade. A new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Energy Storage: The Next… Continue reading

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Featured Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | 7 Comments | Updated on Mar 13, 2014

Could Minnesota’s “Value of Solar” Make Everyone a Winner?

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/minnesotas-value-solar-winner/

On Wednesday, Minnesota became the first state to allow utilities a new method of contracting with distributed solar producers, called the market-based “value of solar.” If adopted by utilities, it will fundamentally change the relationship between solar-producing customers and their electric utility. Following Minnesota’s Value of Solar Process? Here are a few resources: Part 1… Continue reading