In August 2019, the Director of ILSR’s Energy Democracy initiative visited Taunton, Mass., where the community is hoping their city-owned electric utility will accelerate its progress toward renewable energy. In his presentation, John Farrell shared several powerful stories of what’s possible, including the two key tenets of energy democracy: decentralized energy production and decentralized and democratic management and ownership of the system.
The stories included:
- The Shiloh Temple cooperatively owned community solar project, one of dozens of projects in Minnesota’s nation-leading community solar program. As a whole, the program offers $1.2 billion in anticipated revenue for subscribers including many pollinator-friendly installations. Some communities not served by the program, like Grand Rapids, Minn., have struggled to see success with community solar.
- The enormous potential––the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows nearly 40% of each state’s electricity could be generated from solar energy of rooftops.
- How local governance isn’t always a guarantee of coordinating community interests with a publicly-owned utility, with examples from Truckee, Calif., and Rochester, Minn.
- The Voices of 100% series of the Local Energy Rules podcasts, featuring stories of the struggles that cities have made in pursuit of 100% renewable energy. Specifically, John mentioned an interview with Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux of Grand Marais, Minn., and Mayor Breea Clark of Norman, Okla. In Bloomfield, Iowa, Americorps volunteers did a “summer of light” door-to-door effort to bring energy efficient light bulbs directly to customers even as the city-owned utility expanded financing strategies (like inclusive energy financing) to help folks make other improvements to make their home more comfortable.
- The success of Georgetown and Denton, Tex., in pursuing 100% renewable energy.
- The renewable energy led by a visionary general manager at Farmers Electric Cooperative in Iowa.
- The struggle for local self-reliance in Boulder, Colo., and how the struggle itself has pressured the utility to answer the local call for renewable energy.
- Cities that have maximized their investment in solar on public buildings, like New Bedford, Mass.
- The efforts of the city-owned utility in Austin, Tex., to make public charging for electric vehicles accessible to everyone.
Featured Photo Credit: TCAM TV (screenshot)