Monday, September 6, 2010

Encouraging Local Energy

So we all know, by now hopefully, how promising renewable energy development is, how needed it is and how fast the field is developing. Yet, living in the South West of the US (where it is practically raining sunshine 320+ days of the year), RE development- especially on a local, distributed, scale is sluggish and barely seems to exist. How is this possible, that what is needed and pretty much just as easy to implement and develop as other non-renewable dirty and finite industries are? Is it because most renewable energy development in the US is still on the centralized level- a big development situated far from the consumers using it? I like to think the local capacity is there, to support such development, yet there is not the same governmental support here in the States as there is in other countries leading in RE development, like Germany and Denmark. I won't go into this debate, yet draw attention to a solution on the horizon that will hopefully encourage more RE development on the local level- feed-in tariffs.

After traveling through Germany and Denmark and witnessing so many small towns and cities producing their own heat and electricity (combined heat and power), and actually profiting from their RE- it is crazy to come back to the US and see how slow we are in establishing this win-win situation. The thing that has helped countries like Germany and Denmark succeed in their development on a local level is due, in part, to the establishment of the Feed-In Tariff or 'renewable energy payments' at the local and Federal level. A Feed-In Tariff is a policy mechanism to encourage RE development by establishing an adequate, fixed rate for the power generated by the producers, especially in favor of small and/or private producers, like a household or cooperative. So producers, who invest in the technology and take that leap of investment to get RE rolling in their locality can first actually 'access a grid' (the system for storing and distributing energy), have a long-term agreement for the use of energy produced and are not left behind if the cost of energy drops.

I'm very excited that my city's electric company in Durango, is starting to introduce this policy to the community. They will begin by holding an informative meeting with the public and get the ball rolling towards more localized energy production.