Skip to content Skip to site navigation

John Farrell's Posts

Comments

Who’s Your Energy Daddy?

8134708998_619d9eba4c
Michael Kappel

For now it remains large, investor-owned utilities, and ostensibly locally-focused rural cooperatives and municipal utilities. But the energy landscape of today gives me uncomfortable reminders of the Athenian tragedy by Sophocles - the Oedipus tale. John Farrell, ILSR’s Director of Democratic Energy, gave this panel presentation at the 23rd annual conference of the Society for Environmental Journalists in Chattanooga, TN, on Oct. 4, 2013. For those who don’t recall their college or high school English class, that’s the tale of the man who grows up to murder his father the king and marry his mother.  And in this 21st century version, the …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

Enabling more Democratic Energy

From outdated technical rules to local permitting to incentive policies, there are opportunities to increase the potential for local solar power. This is the fourth of five parts of ILSR's Rooftop Revolution report being published in serial.  Read Part 1 or Part 2 or Part 3. Download the entire report and see our other resources here. Removing Technical Barriers A prominent “technical” barrier is the so-called “15% rule.” It’s a rule adopted in many states that says that distributed renewable energy systems can only make up 15% of the peak energy demand on the portion of the electricity system that …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

Top 5 Democratic Energy Resources of 2013

top-5

From the Democratic Energy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance: Rooftop Revolution A combination resource of our two reports on residential and commercial solar grid parity, including a slideshow, infographic, and an amazing interactive map (#5 on this list by itself). Germany Has More Solar Power Because Everyone Wins It got press because someone at Fox News thought Germany was sunnier than America (the reverse is true), but the real revelation is that the renewable energy revolution in Germany is largely people powered. Half of Germany’s 53,000 Megawatts of Renewable Energy is Locally Owned Actually, it’s up to 63,000 …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

The Solar Opportunity

Population-at-Grid-Parity-and-Residential-Rooftop-Solar-MW-320x166

The coming of solar grid parity offers an opportunity for millions of Americans to go solar affordably. But it also means a potential transformation, a democratization of an electricity system long dominated by centrally-controlled utilities and centralized ownership and production of electricity. When solar can undercut grid electricity prices, it may also undercut this 20th century system of centralized ownership, bringing economic sunshine and self-reliance to communities along with solar electricity. This is the third of five parts of our Rooftop Revolution report being published in serial.  Read Part 1 or Part 2. Download the entire report and see our …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

‘Watershed’ Climate and Energy Agreement Between CenterPoint Energy and City of Minneapolis

1963969466_15a94fe95d-320x213

In a groundbreaking agreement announced earlier this year, the gas utility serving Minneapolis, MN – CenterPoint Energy – will work with the city of Minneapolis to achieve a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.  The agreement, negotiated with the grassroots campaign Minneapolis Energy Options, secures the support of the gas utility for a variety of measures intended to advance clean, affordable, and local energy. The memorandum of understanding, signed ahead of the city’s franchise contract renegotiations with CenterPoint next year, includes efforts to maximize the impact of the utility’s state-mandated conservation program, track building energy use and methane …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

City-Owned Texas Utility Already Serves 40% Renewable Energy

cityofdentonlogo-320x185

Is having local control of a utility the key to ramping up renewable energy? In 2011, Boulder citizens voted to have their city take over the electric utility, joining 1 in 7 Americans served by municipal electric utilities.  Their feasibility study suggests they can more than double renewable energy on their system to over 50%, slashing greenhouse gas emissions.  A study in Santa Fe, NM, suggests a similar increase (to 45% clean energy) is possible, while reducing electricity costs.  Other cities, like Minneapolis, MN, are also studying the option. Many of these communities are inspired by examples like Denton, TX, a municipal …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

What’s Wrong With Xcel’s Proposed Community Solar Program?

Fees and illegal caps, for starters. After the state's solar energy law passed in 2013, Minnesota's largest electric utility, Xcel Energy, was required to create a program to support the development of community solar energy. Since 3 in 4 people can't have solar on their own rooftop (because they rent, or have a nice shade tree), community solar dramatically expands the opportunity for the average person to reduce their energy bill and participate in a clean energy future. Xcel Energy published their proposed community solar program on Sept. 30, 2013 and I've got a few choice words about their proposal, …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

How Vermont Has Promoted Local Renewable Energy: Episode 10 of Local Energy Rules Podcast

6140575309_4098f5fde0

“A lot of the utilities don’t totally understand this new paradigm that’s coming.” David Blittersdorf of AllEarth Renewables has been working to advance renewable energy in Vermont for years, and was instrumental in getting the state’s standard offer program (a feed-in tariff) passed in 2009.  He’s adamant that the state should accelerate its standard offer in order to meet its ambitious 2050 goal of getting 90% of its energy from renewable sources.  But some of the state’s utilities have balked and others don’t seem to grasp the pace that’s needed to reach the state’s targets. Podcast (Local Energy Rules): Play …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

People power beats corporate utility 2-to-1 in Boulder

activists on "local power" bus
New Era Colorado

It was a textbook example of a corporation looking to buy an election result. After spending $1 million in a failed attempt to stifle local energy freedom in 2011, Xcel Energy poured over $500,000 of ratepayer money into a ballot measure to hamstring Boulder, Colo.'s exploration of a locally owned alternative to the largely fossil-fueled monopoly utility.

On Tuesday, people power buried Xcel. By a margin of 2-to-1, Boulder voters resoundingly rejected Question 310. As Stephen Fenberg of New Era Colorado said late that night, “Go home, Xcel. Your money is no good here.”

At stake was one community’s multi-year effort to power itself in a fashion that is more friendly to the local economy, to the climate, and to local oversight. It had previously culminated in a tough ballot fight in November 2011, when Xcel used ratepayer money to outspend locals 10-to-1 and still lost, as Boulder citizens narrowly granted the city permission to explore a clean-power-focused, city-owned utility.

Since then, the city and its citizen allies have turned traditional thinking on its head, envisioning a city-owned electric utility that maximizes local benefit rather than shareholder returns, that generates power in town rather than importing it, and that maximizes renewable energy instead of clinging to fossil fuels. They have rigorously studied other city-run utilities (29 others in Colorado alone) to learn best practices for running a local electric system. They have shown that switching to a locally owned utility could nearly triple renewable energy, halve greenhouse gas emissions, and compete on price with their current two-faced corporate overlords.

Comments

On November 5th, Local Power is on the Line

20130901151353-Pick-a-side-t-shirt-320x320

In 2011, citizens of Boulder, CO, opted to explore alternatives to their monopoly, corporate electric utility that pumps coal-fired energy into town and sucks millions in energy profits out. They won at the ballot box despite being outspent more than 10-to-1. But tomorrow they have to win again against deep corporate pockets, or lose everything they've fought for. Since November 2011, the diligent citizens of Boulder have shown that switching to a locally owned utility could nearly triple renewable energy, lower greenhouse gas emissions by half, and compete on price with their current two-faced corporate overlords. They've studied other city-run …

Read more: Uncategorized