Report: How Local Ownership of Clean Energy Boosts Benefits, Busts Barriers, and Builds Power

Date: 14 Jun 2023 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail
Advantage Local Report Cover Page

ILSR’s new report, Advantage Local: Why Local Energy Ownership Matters, finds that local ownership of clean energy can address many of the most pressing challenges we face today, from the climate crisis to economic inequality to corporate exploitation. The report details how local clean energy ownership — as distinct from local siting — can boost the economic impacts of clean energy, cut through public opposition to project development, and put power back in the hands of people instead of polluting utility monopolies.

As shown in the report, local ownership of clean energy, such as rooftop solar panels and shared solar gardens, offers numerous benefits to individual clean energy owners and their communities.

At a household level, the benefits include:

  • Maximized electric bill savings and energy revenues — owners of rooftop solar panels or part-owners in a community solar cooperative can see up to $12,000 to $14,000 more earnings over the life of the projects, compared to outside ownership.
  • Wealth-building through increased home values — as much as $4,000 per kilowatt in a 2015 estimate — and shared community assets.

Line chart comparing the cumulative cashflow for a household that either owns rooftop solar panels or has a power purchase agreement with an outside company. After 30 years, the cumulative cash flow for the self-owned panels is more than $12,000 greater.

For the broader community, the benefits of local ownership include:

  • More local jobs and greater reinvestment in the local economy — local ownership can triple the value of rooftop solar and community solar for local people and entities.
  • Creative solutions to community needs, including projects that create job opportunities, reduce energy poverty, increase resiliency, and expand democratic decision making.
  • Public support for renewable energy projects — multiple studies find that local and community ownership is associated with greater acceptance.
  • Political power to fight the climate crisis, counter utility misinformation, and make social change.

Big energy monopolies often fight the growth of locally owned clean energy as they cling to a 100-year-old business model based on centralized control and dirty fossil fuels. On top of that, systemic inequalities and policy shortcomings combine to keep clean energy ownership out of reach for many Americans, particularly low-income households, people of color, and renters.

To effectively realize clean energy’s full potential, counter utility monopoly power, and fight the climate crisis, policymakers must make local ownership possible for people of all incomes and backgrounds, including by:

  • Passing state policies that enable locally owned clean energy projects.
  • Addressing upfront costs through improved incentives and funding.
  • Incentivizing local ownership through new and existing clean energy programs.
  • Providing technical support for locally owned clean energy projects.

For more details on the benefits of and barriers to local clean energy ownership as well as examples of successful projects, download the full report or start with the executive summary.

If you’re looking for the original Advantage Local report published in 2014, it is available here.

This article was originally posted at For timely updates, follow John Farrell on Twitter or get the Energy Democracy weekly update.

Featured photo credit: Jared Piper/PHLCouncil via Philadelphia City Council/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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Follow Katie Kienbaum:
Katie Kienbaum

Katie is a Researcher with ILSR's Energy Democracy initiative, where she researches and writes about equitable and decentralized clean energy and its impact on communities across the country. Before joining the Energy Democracy initiative, she was a Research Associate with the Community Broadband Networks initiative

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Follow John Farrell:
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.