Saturday, June 16, 2012

Community Power

Despite the economy, people are investing in solar, wind and hydro power for their local communities:

Over Half of Germany's Renewable Energy Owned By Citizens & Farmers, Not Utility Companies (Treehugger):
Germany's promotion of renewable energy rightly gets singled out for its effectiveness, most often by me as an example of how to do things well versus the fits and starts method of promotion common in the US. Over at Wind-Works, Paul Gipe points out another interesting facet of the German renewable energy saga: 51% of all renewable energy in Germany is owned by individual citizens or farms, totaling $100 billion worth of private investment in clean energy.

Breaking that down into solar power and wind power, 50% of Germany's solar PV is owned by individuals and farms, while 54% of its wind power is held by the same groups.

In total there's roughly 17 GW of solar PV installed in Germany—versus roughly 3.6 GW in the US (based on SEIA's figures for new installations though the third quarter of 2011 plus the 2.6 GW installed going into the year).

Remember, Germany now produces slightly over 20% of all its electricity from renewable sources.
The communities taking renewable energy into their own hands (The Guardian)
Late last year we - Co-operatives UK and The Co-operative Group - published a new report which reveals the growing number of people who are choosing to start renewable energy co-operatives in their communities, against all the odds.

What is exciting about the report is that it is the first and most comprehensive guide to what amounts to a new movement of communities who are taking action for greener energy into their own hands.

In a time of doom – when all talk is of cuts, unemployment and rising prices – this report highlights a different story. Despite, or maybe even because, of the wider economic woes, people across the UK are creating a co-operative movement for green energy.

There are now 43 communities who are in the process of or already producing renewable energy through co-operative structures. They are set up and run by everyday people – local residents mostly – who are investing their time and money and together installing solar panels, large wind turbines or hydro-electric power for their local communities.
Resilient Energy: Municipalization of Power (Global Guerrillas)
How can you help your community build a resilient energy system?  One of the first steps is to buy back the energy system from the regional power company by condemning it and then municipalizing it (it can be run as a power co-op or as a standard company ...  The structure really depends on the community.).  This moves provides you with the control of the local grid so that your community can:
  •     Ensure higher levels of maintenance (tree trimming, etc.) and faster response to failure.  During the two big power outages on the east coast this summer/fall, power was out for much of the region for nearly a week.  In many cases, the municipal power companies get power back on to all of their customers in 1/2 the time of the big regional companies.
  •     Cut rates and change energy mix.  As a municipal company, you can select the different types of energy you will use locally. 
  •     Add advanced micro-grid features.  Everything from community energy markets to local energy backup to power smoothing.   Extra benefit of this approach:  it will prevent the regional power company from using smart grid tech to snoop on everyone in the community by micro-analyzing energy use (which they will then resell to marketing companies or provide to the government w/o warrant for "signature" sniffing).
All of the benefits listed above will double or treble in importance as the global economy nose dives into depression over the next couple of years.  So, it's better to get started early than later.

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