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.
- Seeing the Light: Regaining Control of Our Electricity System is a book from the New Rules Project by David Morris.
- Small Is Profitable: The Hidden Economic Benefits of Making Electrical Resources the Right Size – Rocky Mountain Institute, 2002
- Public Financing of Self-Generation: Costs and Benefits of Onsite Photovoltaic, Fuel Cell, and Micro-turbine Systems – Office of Ratepayer Advocates, CA Public Utilities Commission, January 2001
- Distributed Generation and Local Governments: An Introduction – Clean Power Research, 2000
- Distributed Utility Planning: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues – by the VT Dept. of Public Service, 2000
- The full Chicago Energy Plan – by the Chicago Department of Environment
- San Diego Regional Energy Office has a section on the San Diego Regional Energy Plan 1994 and a section on the San Diego Regional Energy Strategy 2030
- San Diego Association of Governments [SANDAG]
- Klickitat County has a section with the Final Energy Overlay Zone and Environmental Impact Statement Files – issued August 2004 and March 2005