More on Centralized v. Decentralized Solar

Date: 8 Apr 2011 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

A recent Colorado news story captures the spirit of my last post on the tension between centralized and decentralized renewable energy generation, with a quote that describes the conventional (environmentalist) wisdom:

It’s not an either or choice, that we only put solar on rooftops or on people’s homes or do utility scale, large projects,” said Pete Maysmith, executive director of the Colorado Conservation Voters.

“As we move forward toward energy independence, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, on dirty, polluting sources of energy like coal, we need to move forward on all fronts with renewable [energy], and that includes rooftop solar and community solar gardens, local power. It also includes utility-scale solar that is properly sited, and that’s really important.” [emphasis added]

As I illustrated with the example of FERC’s lavish incentives for new high-voltage transmission lines, the principled stand of “moving forward on all fronts” collapses in the face of incentives strongly skewed toward centralized power generation.  From rich federal incentives for centralizing infrastructure to the basic structure of federal tax incentives, distributed generation operates at a disadvantage.

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John Farrell

John Farrell directs the Energy Democracy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and he develops tools that allow communities to take charge of their energy future, and pursue the maximum economic benefits of the transition to 100% renewable power.