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Building Community Capacity for Energy Democracy: A Deck of Strategies

Lots of elements of a community powered by sustainable energy: solar, wind, and more.

Building Community Capacity for Energy Democracy: A Deck of Strategies

John Duda

John Duda

Director of Communications at The Democracy Collaborative more

Thomas Hanna

Thomas Hanna

Director of Research at The Democracy Collaborative more

Matthew Burke

Matthew Burke

Pursuing a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences at McGill University more

Energy democracy is the simple idea that the transition we urgently need to clean, renewable sources of energy should be accomplished hand-in-hand with the expansion of a more equitable economy and of a more participatory democracy. It’s a vision in which the communities locked out of decision making about the current energy system—who more often than not are the communities who suffer the most from pollution and climate change—get the chance to determine what a future energy system looks like, and control it from the bottom up.

But beneath this simple idea is a potentially bewildering array of strategies—new technologies, new models for regulation, and new forms of distributed and public ownership. Which kinds of renewable energy production really build community power? Rather than prescribing a single vision of what “energy democracy” might mean, the deck here is designed to let you explore and remix the basic elements of an inclusive and sustainable energy system, grounded in the agency of communities to shape their own ecological and economic futures.

Built with much inspiration from People’s Action, and drawing on the work of many, especially Anthony Giancatarino at the Center for Social Inclusion, John Farrell at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and Jacqui Patterson of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program.

If you are interested in printed copies of this project to use as an organizing and educational tool, please contact press@democracycollaborative.org.

En español : La Democracia Energética: Una Baraja de Cartas

 

 

Community Solar

Community Solar

Allows people who don’t own their own roofs, or who don’t have the capital necessary to go green on their own, to pool resources and cooperatively own a green energy power plant with other members of their community. read more
Green Worker-Owned Cooperatives

Green Worker-Owned Cooperatives

Capturing the wealth created in the green transition by making sure green jobs created in the process are owned by their workers. read more
Green Public-Service Banks

Green Public-Service Banks

Green public-service banks offer the potential for local control over public financing. Rather than conventional financing that disembeds capital from particular communities, non-profit public-service banks can provide loans to support community-based renewable energy developments and related enterprises. read more
Solar Purchasing Cooperatives

Solar Purchasing Cooperatives

Consumers band together to negotiate less expensive bulk pricing on solar equipment and installation fees for their homes from suppliers and contractors. read more
Cap and Dividend

Cap and Dividend

Rather than financializing the right to pollute (as in “cap and trade”), cap and dividend treats the atmosphere as a commons, and makes polluters pay a fee that is shared as guaranteed basic income or as a means-targeted subsidy to offset potentially higher energy costs. read more
Carbon Tax-and-Invest

Carbon Tax-and-Invest

Based on the polluter pay principle, a carbon tax attaches a usage fee to fossil fuels in proportion to the carbon content of the fuel, providing a financial incentive to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. read more
Community Choice Aggregation

Community Choice Aggregation

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a CCA is a “state policy that enables local governments to aggregate electricity demand within their jurisdictions in order to procure alternative energy supplies while maintaining the existing electricity provider for transmission and distribution services.” read more
Democratized Grid Management

Democratized Grid Management

An independent grid manager who preserves equal access and coordinates resources from distributed sources of energy. read more
Municipalization

Municipalization

Takes a local energy system out of private corporate control and puts it under public control as a municipally-owned enterprise. read more
Microgrids

Microgrids

A “microgrid” is a set of power generation, storage, and transmission facilities that can connect and disconnect from the larger grid, creating a more resilient energy system and one in which local control can be exercised over the entire circuit of energy creation, purchasing, sale, and utilization. read more
Net Metering

Net Metering

Incentivizes green energy production by allowing families and institutions to run their electric meter backwards, selling excess power they generate back to the utility at the retail price they pay, rather than the lower rate paid to wholesale producers. read more
Virtual Net Metering

Virtual Net Metering

Simplifies the benefits realized from community solar projects by directly helping participants save money on their electric bill based on the retail price of the renewable energy they helped produce, even if that power was generated somewhere else than on their own home’s roof. read more
Participatory Planning

Participatory Planning

Developing the structures and processes that ensure the communities affected by dirty energy production get a real say in what the path to clean power looks like. read more
Public Green Power Purchasing

Public Green Power Purchasing

Moving the procurement of electric power for public institutions (like school boards and city governments) away from dirty energy with negative impacts on the planet and local communities. read more
Renewable Portfolio Standard

Renewable Portfolio Standard

Mandates that utilities generate or acquire a specified percentage of their electricity production from renewable energy sources within a given timeframe. read more
Smart Grids

Smart Grids

Applying internet technology and two-way communication to the electricity distribution system in order to monitor demand, increase efficiency, reduce service interruptions, and integrate renewable and distributed sources of power. read more
On-Bill Financing

On-Bill Financing

Allows low-income residents without access to upfront capital or credit to finance energy improvements through the anticipated savings that will be realized on their lower bills. read more
Community Benefit Agreements

Community Benefit Agreements

It’s possible to mandate that any jobs created through state or local programs to promote renewables be good jobs, with living wages, and that these jobs be local or created by minority-owned companies. read more
Energy Efficiency Subsidies

Energy Efficiency Subsidies

Go after clean power low-hanging fruit by incentivizing less energy use through cost-effective upgrades (better light bulbs, less drafts, etc.) read more
Greening Community Institutions

Greening Community Institutions

Helping churches and other place-based, community-rooted nonprofits to upgrade energy systems and implement renewable power generation. read more
Low-Income Energy Subsidies

Low-Income Energy Subsidies

Money for low-income households and multi-family affordable housing development that enables lower cost/free renewable energy installation for people who would normally not have access to lower cost energy. read more
Revolving Loan Funds

Revolving Loan Funds

Establish a source of credit that families and/or community institutions can access in order to make energy efficiency improvements or switch to renewable power generation, where the money used is paid back into a growing fund. read more
Smart Energy Regions

Smart Energy Regions

Scale up local renewable energy supply and planning across a specified geographic region by clustering local initiatives into regional networks, facilitating regime level change through the coordination of local projects while respecting the autonomy of local energy initiatives. read more
Sustainable Energy Utilities

Sustainable Energy Utilities

A central public or nonprofit clearinghouse helping residents and institutions connect to information, resources, and subsidies around energy efficiency and renewable energy generation. read more
Energy Investment Districts

Energy Investment Districts

The Center for Social Inclusion’s model for a place-based, participatory entity to channel investment into green energy projects that directly benefit marginalized low-income communities and communities of color. read more