The Community Power Report: April in Review
Mümtaz Derya Tarhan
The Community Power Report
May 2, 2012
Spring is here (for the Northern Hemisphere, at least). And following the cold and dark days of centralized, conventional electricity generation, the nature welcomes the spring of community-owned clean power.
Before I go further with my figurative writing, let me pace myself by telling you why I am so excited about the current situation and the future of the community power movement:
A. New Funding Schemes:
- The New York Power Authority is launching a $30 million, 5-year solar energy initiative that funds solar energy research, training and demonstration projects. The goal is to bring down the cost of solar power generation in order to help it gain wider use. (New York, United States)
- ‘Solar For All’ Bill has passed in California in order to promote small-scale solar rooftop installations in disadvantaged communities. The legislation would require the state to install enough systems to produce 375 megawatts of renewable energy – or about 1,000 small-scale projects – in disadvantaged communities between 2014 and the end of 2020. Through the recently-implemented FIT program, the Bill will also help generate income through selling the surplus energy to the grid. The Bill also promotes hiring of local workers for the panel installations.
- In Colorado, the Clean Energy Collective launched a Community Solar Garden Financing Program in co-operation with the Sooper Credit Union. This is an innovative and pioneering partnership involving, for the first time, a credit union that gets involved in community energy financing. We hope to see the replication of such partnerships elsewhere.
- The Bipartisan Rural Energy Savings Program Act will provide Electric Cooperatives in the United States access to a new loan program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service in order to offer consumer-members micro-loans to complete energy saving investments in their homes, which can be paid back primarily through savings on their electric bills. Conservation is perhaps the most important component of a faster transition to a green future, and all community-focused efforts to promote conservation are more than welcome and should be implemented widely.
- DECC revealed that £8m will be allocated through a competitive community grants scheme to community groups willing to install renewable heating systems (United Kingdom).
- Scotland launched a £23.5 bridge loan scheme for community renewable energy projects. The Community and Renewable Energy Loan Scheme (CARES) will provide individual projects with loans of up to £150,000 to cover 95 per cent of agreed costs. CARES is geared towards eliminating a major financial hurdle for community renewable energy projects by helping these projects deal with initial financial, technical and legal matters relating in sufficient detail for them to be able to access private finance and turn their project into reality. The initiative is a move towards Scotland meeting their 500MW community energy goal by 2020.
B. Community Power Project Updates
a. Community Groups
- In the third round of funding from the First Nations Clean Energy Business Fund (FNCEBF), $610,000 goes to 11 First Nations communities across British Columbia, Canada.
- A 100 percent community-owned solar project went live on the roof of an inner city estate in London, UK. Brixton Energy Solar is the UK’s first inner city solar power project and was funded by a community share issue.
- Bristol Energy Co-operative in the UK launched its share offering and is aiming to raise £90,000 for a solar project. The offer will run until May 18.
- Three more community wind projects (total capacity of 14MW) in Nova Scotia, Canada has been approved through the province’s Community FIT Program.
- An exciting solar co-operative project is being launched in Kitchener/Waterloo (ON, Canada): The Solar City Co-operative Initiative
b. Local Institutions
Last month, the CP report featured a lot of news involving Municipalities, Hospitals, Schools, Universities, and other local institutions (mostly in the U.S.) undertaking renewable energy projects. I believe those projects have a great significance for educating the public, setting a good model for others and encourage distributed power generation. Such projects can definitely be improved through directly involving the public in their development and ownership:
- LVU School District in California Turns Solar
- Baylor School in TN Saves Money and Teaches Students Through Solar Project
ii. Universities and Colleges:
- Southern Adventist Univesity’s Student-Driven Installs Solar Project
- Waubonsee Community College, IL Installs Wind Turbine at Sugar Grove Campus
- Wind Turbine at Heartland Community College, IL To Meet Half Of Its Energy Needs and Educate Students
- University of Buffalo Unveils Solar Project
- Cook County, IL Undertakes Two-Turbine Wind Project
- City of Highland, CA Undertakes Solar Project, Saves Taxpayers Money
- Chino Valley, AZ To Save $4,000 Monthly Through Solar Project
- Solar Panels On a Manchester Church’s Roof To Raise Funds For Local Community ventures in Old Trafford
C. Feed-In Tariff Policy Updates
- The draft of the new FIT rules for Ontario are now published and they feature very positive aspects for the community power sector -and especially for co-operatives in Ontario. The draft rules include a 10% capacity allocation for community projects and a new points system prioritizing renewable energy co-operatives. The finalized version of the new FIT rules will be announced on May 9th 2012, but it is highly likely that co-operatives will benefit greatly from the new paradigm. For a detailed explanation of how the new FIT rules may benefit renewable energy co-operatives in Ontario, please read Shane Mulligan’s latest article and our recent post.
D. Crowdfunding Schemes
Currently, perhaps the most notable actors in the community power sector are crowdfunding schemes. Based on the simple idea of involving ordinary citizens in the development and ownership of renewable energy schemes, these investment opportunities are getting a lot of praise and attention mainly due to the efforts of community solar gardens in the States, and organizations such as Abundance Generation and energyshare. The future is very promising for renewable energy crowdfunding, as they are inclusive, financially viable and their spreading and success will encourage other individuals, organizations and jurisdictions.
- energyshare and Abundance Generation in the United Kingdom
- Community Solar Gardens being established across the United States
E. Community Choice Aggregation
The customer is always right, as goes the saying. Communities in the United States and United Kingdom make their preference of renewable power over polluting sources; and they are right. Through the strength of collective bargaining, communities are helping the transition towards a renewable sources, fighting fuel poverty, and paving the way to a future where individuals will be beyond solely customers, but also generators of power.
- The People’s Power: A Platform for Collective Energy Switching For Cheaper Fuel in the UK
- Please also take a look at Groundswell, a very exciting initiative from Washington D.C.
I hope now you all understand why I am very excited and hopeful for a community-owned green future, and hope that you can contribute to it by spreading the good news!
Mümtaz Derya Tarhan
Founder, The Community Power Report
Founder, The Community Power Report