Distributed Generation in Local Plans

If a proliferation of small-scale power plants serves the interests of the general community, cities and counties should include this concept as an element in their general plans and zoning ordinances.

Over three years, Klickitat County in southern Washington, studied the potential impacts of future energy projects within its borders and came up with a plan to direct those projects to the most appropriate areas. The county’s “Energy Overlay Zone” is a zoning tool aimed at expediting renewable energy development. The Energy Overlay Zone covers more than 1,000 square miles, two-thirds of Klickitat County. The process that led to the establishment of the energy zone and a process for future monitoring was not without critics.

San Diego’s 1994 Regional Energy Plan included a Small-Scale Distributed Power Generation goal. The objective of this measure was to increase awareness of distributed power generation technologies generally; to ensure that institutional and legal barriers do not impede their development (e.g. siting standards) and to encourage their use when meeting small increments of the region’s electric needs. This is a perfect example of how a local government can begin to encourage local power production.

Local governments must also redesign their building and electrical codes to remove obstacles to on-site power. Currently, these codes provide guidelines for the installation of appliances. They will need to be updated to include guidelines for the installation of power plants.

The City of Chicago planned to meet its growing electricity needs through 2010 using renewable energy, energy management, cogeneration, and distributed energy sources, according to an energy plan released in 2001. The plan estimates that even with the higher cost of renewable energy, Chicago will save more than $260 million by 2010. Chicago is already working with four city agencies and 48 suburban governments to purchase 20 percent of their combined power needs from renewable energy sources. The city is also building a distributed source of electricity by amassing the capabilities of the emergency backup generators located at city facilities. Together, these generators will be equivalent to one 10-megawatt power plant. The City of Chicago is also examining its facilities for the possibility of installing small power plants that also generate useable heat — such combined heat and power facilities, also called cogeneration plants, operate at high efficiencies.

More Information:

Merton Rule – United Kingdom

With aims to inspire renewable energy generation at the local level, in October 2003, Merton became the first local authority in the United Kingdom (UK) to adopt a policy requiring new non-residential developments to generate a portion of their energy needs from on-site renewables.… Read More