John Farrell

John Farrell is the author of Energy Self-Reliant States and a senior researcher at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, where he focuses on renewable energy policy.

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From outdated technical rules to local permitting to incentive policies, there are opportunities to increase the potential for local solar power.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 …

Top 5 Democratic Energy Resources of 2013

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 …

The Solar Opportunity

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 …

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

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 …

City-Owned Texas Utility Already Serves 40% Renewable Energy

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 …

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, …

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

“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 …

Politics

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

Voters in Boulder, Colo., spurned Xcel Energy's big-money campaign and pushed toward a plan to create a publicly owned, renewably powered utility.

On November 5th, Local Power is on the Line

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 …

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