A People’s Playbook on Advancing Energy Justice, Despite Utility Misdirection — Episode 156 of Local Energy Rules

Date: 11 May 2022 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Utilities have more than a century of experience in maintaining their monopolies. Thanks to organizers at the Energy Democracy Project, the people now have a playbook that exposes utility tactics and shares proven strategies to advance energy justice.

For this episode of the Local Energy Rules Podcast, host John Farrell speaks with Yesenia Rivera, Director of Energy Equity and Inclusion at Solar United Neighbors and member of the Energy Democracy Project. Rivera was also a project anchor for the People’s Utility Justice Playbook and its companion, the People’s History of Utilities. Farrell and Rivera discuss how to combat utility tactics that undermine energy democracy.

Listen to the full episode and explore more resources below — including a transcript and summary of the conversation.

Yesenia Rivera: It was a battle for the energy democracy advocates to stand up. They knew they couldn’t fight this on the utility’s terms, that if they were gonna win this fight, they had to change the narrative. So the Local Clean Energy Alliance, the People Power Solar Cooperative, they tried to change the narrative. So instead of talking about cost shift, they made it about the utility’s business model. They made it about that monopoly and how this was really about robbing us from the benefits of clean energy. They made it about local solar and democratizing that solar.
John Farrell: What if communities had a playbook to help them understand the way electric utilities wield their power and influence and how to respond effectively? Thanks to the Energy Democracy Project, a coalition of over 30 organizations, they now do. The People’s Utility Justice Playbook and its companion, the People’s History of Utilities explains why utilities have so much power and why they’re so reluctant to let any get away. Yesenia Rivera, director of energy equity and inclusion at Solar United Neighbors and one of the Playbook’s primary authors, joined me in April 2022 to explain how this tool helps communities build capacity to shape the energy system they need. I’m John Farrell, director of the Energy Democracy Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and this is Local Energy Rules, a biweekly podcast sharing powerful stories about local, renewable energy. Yesenia, welcome to local energy rules.
Yesenia Rivera: Hi John, thank you for having me.
John Farrell: I love to start off just by asking you and cuz, and in some ways I’m bummed that I didn’t the first time you were on the podcast, but how did you get into this work around energy democracy? What drew you to it?
Yesenia Rivera: Uh, well many things, but I happened to be a housing counselor during the foreclosure crisis. And I saw so many families, especially low to moderate income families that were struggling, not only with their mortgage payments, but especially their utility payments and their bills. And even if we could get them some help on their mortgage and get them a modification, they still had ridiculous amount of utility bills. These are families that are left buying older homes. So they’re less efficient to begin with. And we had people that were paying five, $600 a month in energy bills. And I started researching and said there has to be something. There has to be a way to control these energy bills. They can’t just be like, oh, you moved into a house. You bought a new home. Here’s a $500 bill a month to go with that new home that you just bought. So I came upon solar and started doing some more research on how we could help low to moderate income families. There wasn’t a lot at the time until D.C. launched their Solar for All program. And that’s how I ended up in sun doing energy equity, energy democracy work.
John Farrell: The basic premise of this playbook, the people’s utility justice playbook seems to be that electric utilities don’t really act in the public interest. And for folks of us who have been involved for a long time in the energy sector, it’s really no surprise to hear that. Could you give an overview from the playbook of the numerous ways that utilities are not acting in the public interest?
Yesenia Rivera: That’s a very long list, John, but I’ll give you a couple of examples. We’ll see it in the rate increases, you know, that’s how utilities make their money is to rate increases to cover their investment in fossil fuel technology, which again, even in places like D.C., where they’re supposed to be moving towards a hundred percent clean energy, they’re still asking for rate increases based on their upgrade of fossil fuel technology and equipment, which they shouldn’t be doing because we’re moving away from those technologies. But rate payers are still stuck with that bill.

We saw it during COVID with their shutoff policies. Like we know that it would’ve made a huge difference, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, if moratoriums were in place, if people were able to keep their lights in and their water on. And when Congress looked at having a national moratorium on utility shut off, the utilities lobbied back and said that wasn’t necessary. The states had mechanism in place that would keep them from shutting off utilities in the middle of a pandemic, turns out that was not the case and many of the utilities, even when they should not shut off, utilities still went ahead and shut off people from water and power. And that cost us life at the beginning of the pandemic.

So we see it in how they fight against energy efficiency, against the transition to renewable and clean energy. If they’re not benefiting from it, they will put up a fight. All they care is about the bottom line. Especially if we’re talking about IOUs, investor owned utilities, they have to respond to their shareholders. That means they’re after making their shareholders a profit, that’s their bottom line. It’s not necessarily providing us with service, but making their shareholders a profit.

John Farrell: I’m so glad you honed in on investor owned utilities in particular, cuz I was curious, you know, the playbook doesn’t say “the people’s investor owned utility justice playbook,” it’s utility. So I was curious like, is this playbook also relevant for customers of rural electric cooperatives and public utilities or is it really focused on those private investor utilities that have that tension between their customers and shareholders?
Yesenia Rivera: Good question. I think during the process of putting together the playbook, we noticed that, you know, the utilities all follow the same models, the same cases. It didn’t matter if it was a rural electric co-op, a municipal owned utility, or an investor owned utility. At the end of the day, they were sort of all playing the same game. So the playbook is meant to help everyone regardless of what type of utility they’re served. Now, how you fight back is going to be influenced by which type of utility you have. You have like a rural electric co-op, there are things you can do to assert more control over how your utility behaves and what kinds of energy they’re used to power your home. So those are options that are not available if you’re in an investor-owned utility territory, because rural electric co-ops actually supposed to be the model of energy democracy. The users have a say in how it’s governed. So they, there are options again that may not be available depending on which type of utility you have. But the playbook is meant for everyone.
John Farrell: One of the things I thought was so helpful about the playbook was how it discusses some of the specific tactics that utilities will use to pursue their private interests. How can we recognize when utilities are using some of those favorite strategies?
Yesenia Rivera: Yes. If you think they’re doing something wrong, they probably are <laugh> And it turns out they really are. You see, they try to do a lot of this behind closed doors. It’s outside of the public view. So I think the first thing we need to do is resources like the playbook help educate the public on what exactly are the utilities doing with their money that’s not helping you, but helping them. And we see it in their charitable giving. They hide behind their foundations and their donations and that’s what they use to split up the community. That’s what they use to, to split up different nonprofits and organizations. And it’s a lot easier to ask a nonprofit to speak up for the utility, to speak up in favor of their position, if the utility is basically funding that entire organization. It’s a lot more difficult for these organizations to speak up because they’re weary that they’re gonna lose their budget. They’re gonna lose their funding by speaking up against a utility.

So we need to look at who are they giving money to? How are they giving them money? Where are they weaving their red? Because the utilities are using those charitable givings against us. It’s where they control the power. And they use that to persuade the public opinion based on who they prop up as a spokesperson. We see it and how they manipulate the media and just bend the conversation in their favor. This is like utility playbook 101.

We saw it in the net metering fight in Florida that we just had where the narrative became about cost shift. It became about the wealthy solar homeowners taken advantage of low- and moderate-income communities and passing on their cost onto the community. When really it’s about the utility’s model, their monopoly, but they made the conversation all about cost and how solar homeowners were hurting low to moderate income families.

We see it in the relationship they have with regulators. There’s almost a revolving door between the public service, public utility commissioners and these utilities. They’re like they’ll be working for the utility one day, serving as a public utility public service commissioner the next. So it’s very important that we pay attention to who’s operating. Where are these commissioners coming from? Who are they working for before and try to hold more people accountable?

John Farrell: You know what I also found it really useful, not only that you in the playbook helped to outline some of these specific ways that utilities act so people can recognize them. But she also did that through some case studies, as I understand, took a lot of time to like collect this information, talk to the people who were involved in some of these incidents and, and the case studies were like detail that poor utility behavior, how the activists had to respond. Could you share one of those case studies from the report?
Yesenia Rivera: Yeah, that whole process took us almost two years just interviewing advocates across the country and learning from their stories, picking out the tactics and how they were fighting back. And one of those examples revolves around California’s AB 1139. And the idea behind this bill was that it was going to increase the cost significantly for new projects, but also existing net metering projects in California, to a point where it would’ve made it really hard, just about impossible for community-based projects to be financed under this model. And they used all of their tactics. They used that cost shift narrative to the point where they were comparing solar and Elon Musk in living in this life of luxury to low- to moderate-income families paying for that life of luxury that Elon was having. So they were very effective to the point where they convinced progressive lawmakers and unions, especially IBEW that this bill was in their interest, that this bill was about protecting low to moderate income families against the likes of Elon Musk and wealthy homeowners in California.

So it was a battle for the energy democracy advocates to stand up. They knew they couldn’t fight this on the utility’s terms, that if they were gonna win this fight, they had to change the narrative. So the Local Clean Energy Alliance, the People Power Solar Cooperative, they tried to change the narrative. So instead of talking about cost, they made it about the utility’s business model. They made it about that monopoly and how this was really about robbing us from the benefits of clean energy. They made it about local solar and democratizing that solar versus rooftop solar, which was the term the utility was using in their cost shift argument.

And they also worked by just sitting down with those progressive lawmakers, with those union workers and not treating them as the enemy, even though they were on the opposing side, but engaging them as allies and focusing on what they had in common and what that common ground was to a point where they managed to kill the bill. But it took a lot of negotiating with these lawmakers, with these unions and changing that narrative, taking back control over what the utility was trying to spend and focusing on what they did have in common, especially with the unions and their need for better paying jobs, especially in the solar field, in leveling the playing field. So I think that, yeah, the cost shift narrative is one of their go-to talking points. When it comes to, to renewable energy, especially solar, they love pitting under-resourced communities versus solar homeowners and blaming solar homeowners for the rate increases. When it, we really know it’s because of their rate making and how they make their money back.

John Farrell: It really is striking as someone, you know, who at ILSR, we’ve done a lot of work around, like into the weeds on some of this, and it is complicated. Like I can understand why people could be swayed by how the utilities talk about this. You know, we expect the utility, because of its depth of knowledge, to be speaking in a way that is trustworthy or that they actually have some knowledge that they’re sharing about the way the system works. And it, and yet you find that what is left out of the conversation is like, oh, you know, you didn’t mention that you have these other power plants that you want to build. And those are threatened by customers building their own solar, or you have these transmission lines that you’d like to build, and we won’t need them if customers are investing in their own clean energy. And that is a funny, different kind of cost shift. You don’t hear about the cost shift between the shareholder, who would get rewarded from those, versus this really narrow focus on solar, knowing that it’s a competitor.
Yesenia Rivera: Yeah, no, that’s how they end up winning some of these arguments is because these points are, how do I say… they’re really wonky, like try and explain net metering. Even if this is something you do on a daily basis, it is still very complicated. It’s a very dense subject and explaining that to regular people every day, how this works, it can get lost. And that’s where the utilities take advantage of, in that they’re like, they’ll spin the narrative because people don’t know how this actually works. People don’t have the time to like, yeah, I just pay my bill. That’s all I wanna do. I got 20 other things to do on a daily basis. I don’t have to deal with anything else. So they take advantage of that. And I think one of the things we need to start doing as advocates is focus a little bit more on that community education so that when the utilities come in with these arguments, we’ve already laid the groundwork. We’ve already prepped the community, so they’re ready. And they know that whatever is coming out of the utility’s spokesperson is not necessarily the truth.
John Farrell: I can’t wait to share a podcast I have, it’s in the planning stages, but there’s a group in Minnesota called the Energy Cohort. That is a network of energy democracy groups, and then community-based organizations in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area in Minnesota. And that’s basically what they’re doing is like this, it’s this collaborative effort, working together, sharing information, educating about how the energy system works and really building capacity in those communities to have a say in it. So anyway, I just, I see as such a great intersection there. But as you’re saying, and then having witnessed this on the ground, like these folks are now out there, like filing comments to the public utilities commission as community organizations in these fights that are so technically complex. So don’t just believe it in the playbook.
Yesenia Rivera: Yeah. We need to build that expertise and make sure that communities are in a position where they can advocate for themselves when they can intervene in these public service public utility cases and do so from a point of where they have the power and the knowledge to do so.
John Farrell: We’re going to take a short break. When we come back, we discuss what the playbook says about communities pushing back against utility power, a new law for the District of Columbia requiring qualifications for public regulators, and the story of building a coalition to fight utility power in Florida. You’re listening to a Local Energy Rules podcast with Yesenia Rivera, director of energy equity and inclusion at Solar United Neighbors about the People’s Utility Justice Playbook.

Hey, thanks for listening to Local Energy Rules. If you’ve made it this far, you’re obviously a fan and we could use your help for just two minutes. As you’ve probably noticed, we don’t have any corporate sponsors or ads for any of our podcasts. The reason is that our mission at ILSR is to reinvigorate democracy by decentralizing economic power. Instead, we rely on you, our listeners. Your donations not only underwrite this podcast, but also help us produce all of the research and resources that we make available on our website and all of the technical assistance we provide to grassroots organizations. Every year ILSR’s small staff helps hundreds of communities challenge monopoly power directly and rebuild their local economies. So please take a minute and go to ilsr.org and click on the donate button. And if making a donation isn’t something you can do, please consider helping us in other ways. You can help other folks find this podcast by telling them about it, or by giving it a review on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. The more ratings from listeners like you, the more folks can find this and ILSR’s other podcasts, Community Broadband Bits and Building Local Power. Thanks again for listening. Now, back to the program.

John Farrell: You’ve already highlighted here, and we’ve been talking about, this idea of community education and capacity building as an important way that communities can push back against utility power. How else can we have influence? What are some other ways that we can fight this fight to make sure that utilities don’t just get exactly what they want? And that we do build an energy system that is more small  “d” democratic.
Yesenia Rivera: We need to pay attention to the political process. A lot of time, they’re gonna have to go through the state legislators in order to get what they’re looking for, in order to get their bills passed. So you see it in Florida, how they donated to political campaigns. I think there was even an article how they, in some cases, ran ghost candidates. So that the candidates that were against the utilities wouldn’t gain as many votes because there were fake candidates running against them. So we need to pay attention to the political process. We need to be a little bit more active in the political process itself.

You look at DC’s no fossil fuel campaign where We Power and other organizations worked on getting the folks that were running for local office, for DC council, to make a pledge not to accept any more donations from PCO, from Washington Gas, from any of the fossil fuel utilities. And several of those candidates did go on and win their seat in city council. So it can be done, you know, but we have to take an active role and participate in that political process.

The other thing we have to do is keep an eye out on the regulators. Like I said earlier, there is sometimes a revolving door between the regulators that are supposed to have oversight over these utilities and it’s kind of hard when these regulators used to work for the utilities, where they have this friendship with the people at the utilities. And when the utility goes in front of the commission to ask for a rate increase, well, everybody’s like, yeah, of course, <laugh>, I’m gonna pass this rate increase. So what’s happening at your state level? Some states, those regulators are elected. You have Georgia where that is an election process, and you have other places like D.C., Maryland, where the regulators are named by the governor, or in D.C.’s case the mayor. So putting pressure on who gets nominated is a way of regulating the utilities.

D.C. was able to pass an emergency bill last winter stating that two out of the three commissioners needed necessary job experience. One of them had to have experience with renewable energy. So one of, at least one of the three commissioners must have expertise in renewable energy. And the second commissioner must have experience with consumer protection. I think we have currently one vacancy at the public service commission here in D.C. It’s gonna be real interesting how this new bill is going to change the dynamic on who gets nominated and who makes it through the nomination process.

John Farrell: That’s great. What a great story too, about having that kind of conversation about like some of those basic qualifications sounds incredibly helpful in the sense that it’s hard to, once you get into the weeds of like that nominating process, once the governor’s already been elected, like, do you have influence, how can you influence that conversation? But you could have a much broader global impact. And frankly, it seems like it could even be potentially like bipartisan legislation to say, here are some qualifications we think are essential for our people that are public regulators.
Yesenia Rivera: You would think it’s like, it’s a no brainer. It’s common sense. Every other job in this country requires you to have a certain amount of experience in order to qualify for that job. Why should regulators be any different?
John Farrell: Yeah, no kidding. Let’s move on. I wanna talk to you a little bit about how utilities fund the things that they do. So this is one of the things that frustrates me literally every day I think about it, and I’m sure many other energy democracy proponents, frankly, even just people who pay their own electric bills, which is, you know, most folks, is that utilities get to fund the things that they do with our money. You know, we pay our electric bill and that money goes to them and then they decide how to spend it. How do we contest with that? Like how do we deal with the fact, how do we deal with that the utilities, when they wanna lobby legislators, when they are going and participating in a regulatory process, they get to pay for that with our money?
Yesenia Rivera: It puts that a disadvantage, you know, they are way more funded than we are because they’re using our own resources against us. So we have to be smart about the fights and just engaging the community and engaging the knowledge and the power that we already have so that we’re ready to fight. But there are opportunities like in front of the FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission I believe that’s what it stands for. They just are an office of public participation. So whenever there is a case or a hearing in front of the FERC, if a community wants to be a part of that, wants to be able to comment, there is an office that’s gonna help them prepare those comments and walk them through the process of participating in these hearings. In some states, you’ll have office of people’s council that will mediate and represent rate payers in their arguments against utilities and their disagreements with the utilities. So other communities you’ll have organizations like Earth Justice that are willing to represent the community in their fight against the utility. A lot of it depends on philanthropy, other bigger nonprofits, or foundations that are willing to help the communities in these fights. But we are at a disadvantage because they have the deeper pockets.
John Farrell: Yeah. More to come on, sort of how we break out of that monopoly model from us. It’s something I’m very interested in is thinking about how we don’t have to always fight at such a disadvantage, but I love how the playbook really gets into all the different ways that you can organize that countervailing power. And speaking of that, is there a story of a community’s action that you hold up as an example of like how to use this playbook? I mean, you kind of already covered that to some degree with the AB 1139 in California. Is there another effort like that that sort of inspires you like, Hey, this is what the playbook is about, or this is why we wrote the playbook is in the hopes that other people can do this same, you know, replicate the same success?
Yesenia Rivera: Yeah. I would say, even though it’s not a huge win, the net metering fight in Florida. And again, that was stacked against us. The utility had influenced the Florida legislators. They had made sure with their campaign contributions and their tactics that the right legislators were in place. They handed the bill that they wanted to see that would basically eliminate net metering in Florida as we know it. And the community, not just energy democracy advocates, solar advocates, and even environmental justice advocates all came together. And we were very clear on, we’re not gonna buy this cost shift narrative. We’re not going to fight this on your terms.

And they made the fight about energy democracy, about having the power to control where your electricity comes from and that the utility shouldn’t be telling you how you can power your home. You know, and we were able to build a large coalition that included solar workers, the industry, environmental justice advocates, the NAACP, the local chapter came out and wrote an op-ed on why that cost shift narrative was wrong. And we were able to rally people, even though the bill passed, that movement, that, that pressure that was built, made them change the bill from what Florida Power and Light wanted, to now you have grandfather clause where all systems built before 2024 are grandfathered in to net metering. And instead of just stopping flat out, it has to decrease gradually. So we’ll see if we can get that changed before it sunsets. We’re still trying to put some pressure on the governor not to sign the bill, to veto. So we’re still some hope, but that is, that’s an example of how if you bring the community together, if you focus on that education and changing that narrative, you can accomplish what are we set out.

John Farrell: And I think too, maybe we can’t see yet, but what’s possible is how might this, the relationships that were built, the capacity that was built, allow you to do other great things in the future. Maybe even if this fight ends up as one where you had to give ground, you’re prepared for the next fight.
Yesenia Rivera: Exactly. We lost a battle, but not necessarily the war. And I think that was one of the things when speaking with our Florida team that they noticed is like, how this fight people started to get it. It’s like, this is what we’ve been trying to tell you all these years on why these narratives are wrong, why the utility is wrong and this fight, it finally clicked in for a lot of folks. Now the next fight, we’re not starting at ground zero. Yeah. Like we have a base, we have a stronger network that’s going to be ready.
John Farrell: It’s such a good segue into this last question I have for you. You know, we spend so much time working sort of within the system that we have, and then being frustrated by its limitations. You know, the fact that there are these monopoly investor-owned companies, the fact that they have public regulators that maybe don’t always do a great job of making sure they act in the public interest and how it’s really enabling a lot of the rules that we have, unfortunately, for those utilities to continue to behave badly. How do you see the system changing? You know, if we used this playbook, if communities across the country were taking advantage of it, were recognizing utility behavior, were organizing and building capacity to fight back, how do you see the system looking different in a few years?
Yesenia Rivera: If communities across the country can use a playbook to help educate other community members, to help educate lawmakers and regulators, we may actually see a system where utilities are held accountable, where they no longer can ignore what’s in the public’s best interest, but have to actually work towards those goals. And at least that’s what we hope is that with more education, we can stop the spread of disinformation. We can stop how the utilities take advantage of that disinformation to hurt the public interest, to keep us from addressing climate change, to keep us from taking control of our own energy, even in our homes. So it, I’m hoping that this can help empower folks to demand that change and know where to start and who’s responsible.
John Farrell: Yeah. Yesenia, thank you so much to you and to other contributors to the People’s Utility Justice Playbook. I’m delighted to be able to share it around with folks, to share this as an important tool in the toolbox for how they can respond to the things that they see, utility actions and injustice. Just really appreciate you taking the time to talk about it with us today.
Yesenia Rivera: Thanks, John. It was pleasure and yeah, hopefully this playbook can keep helping communities across the country fight back.
John Farrell: Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Local Energy Rules where we discussed the People’s Utility Justice Playbook with Yesenia Rivera, director of energy equity and inclusion at Solar United Neighbors and member of the Energy Democracy Project. On the show page, look for links to the playbook and the companion People’s History of Utilities, the new D.C. law setting basic qualifications for public utility regulators, and several other ILSR resources on utility monopoly power. On the website of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, you can also find our interactive community power toolkit, which details additional strategies to advance clean local energy. Local Energy Rules is produced by myself and Maria McCoy with editing provided by audio engineer Drew Birschbach. Tune back into Local Energy Rules every two weeks to hear more powerful stories of communities taking on concentrated power to transform the energy system. Until next time, keep your energy local and thanks for listening.


Shining a Light on Shady Utility Behavior

Electric utilities get away with many things that harm the customers and communities they serve. Rivera brings up several examples: increasing rates, disconnecting customers during a global pandemic, and resisting the transition to clean energy. All the while, in the case of investor-owned utilities, CEO salaries rise and shareholder profits increase.

If they’re not benefiting from it, they will put up a fight… especially if we’re talking about investor owned utilities, they have to respond to their shareholders. That means they’re after making their shareholders a profit, that’s their bottom line. It’s not necessarily providing us with service, but making their shareholders a profit.

Many utility decisions are made behind closed doors. Opportunities for community engagement are limited by gatekeeping and confusing policies — and it’s not just investor-owned utilities.

Municipal utilities, rural electric cooperatives, and investor-owned utilities are all “playing the same game,” says Rivera. Democratic member control is one of the seven cooperative principles, but rural electric cooperative member-owners have been barred from attending board meetings.

Rewriting the Dominant Narrative

Utilities have their own playbook for undermining energy democracy. One of their preferred tactics? Defining the language around a complex and technical issue. Utilities put considerable resources behind their narrative: video advertising, print fliers for customers, and even donating to community organizations that will speak on the utility’s behalf.

To fight back, advocates need to change the narrative and get new information into communities.

We need to build that expertise and make sure that communities are in a position where they can advocate for themselves… where they have the power and the knowledge to do so.

Rivera describes the recent fight over net metering in Florida. The deck was stacked in the utility’s favor, she says — the utility wrote its own bill to eliminate net metering and handed it to legislators. Still, a broad coalition rejected the “cost-shift” narrative and made it about energy democracy. Governor DeSantis vetoed House Bill 741/Senate Bill 1024 on April 27, 2022 — just after the recording of this podcast episode.

Decision Maker Accountability

Rivera’s advice to advocates is to pay close attention to the political process. Utilities have a hold over state politicians and public service commissioners through campaign donations and future job offers.

How can communities hold their elected and appointed officials accountable to their needs? Rivera describes a successful initiative out of Washington D.C.: a bill that sets job specifications for utility regulators. One of the three D.C. commissioners must have experience with consumer advocacy and at least one commissioner must have experience with renewable energy.

Every other job in this country requires you to have a certain amount of experience in order to qualify for that job. Why should regulators be any different?

In the future, Rivera sees a system where utilities are held accountable to the public interest. Education materials like the People’s Utility Justice Playbook and the People’s History of Utilities can stop the spread of disinformation and show what’s possible.

If communities across the country can use a playbook to help educate other community members, to help educate lawmakers and regulators, we may actually see a system where utilities are held accountable — where they no longer can ignore what’s in the public’s best interest, but have to actually work towards those goals.


This is the 156th episode of Local Energy Rules, an ILSR podcast with Energy Democracy Director John Farrell, which shares powerful stories of successful local renewable energy and exposes the policy and practical barriers to its expansion.

Local Energy Rules is Produced by ILSR’s John Farrell and Maria McCoy. Audio engineering by Drew Birschbach.

This article originally posted at ilsr.org. For timely updates, follow John Farrell on Twitter, our energy work on Facebook, or sign up to get the Energy Democracy weekly update

Featured Photo Credit: bernardi10alex via Pixabay

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Maria McCoy

Maria McCoy is a research associate with the Energy Democracy Initiative. In this role, she contributes to blog posts, podcasts, video content, and interactive features.