When local energy combines with local ownership, the entire community benefits.
From the People (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012) explores
how homeowners, co-ops, nonprofit institutions, governments and businesses are
putting power in the hands of local communities through distributed energy
programs and energy-efficiency measures. Using examples from around the nation
— and occasionally from around the world — Greg Pahl explains how to plan,
organize, finance and launch community-scale energy projects that harvest
energy from sun, wind, water and earth. The following excerpt is taken from
chapter 2, “Conservation and Relocalization.”
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Buy this book in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Power From the People.
Keeping your energy dollars
circulating in your community is one of the biggest benefits of smaller-scale,
local energy, and the key to that is local ownership. Local ownership of energy
resources transforms what would otherwise be just another corporate energy
project into an engine for local economic development. Instead of sending money
out of state (or out of country), dollars spent on local energy projects have a
multiplier effect—direct and indirect—in the community. The direct effect comes
from the construction of the project itself, while the indirect effect relates
to additional jobs and economic activity supplying goods and services to the
project (as well as the profits retained in the community, if it is locally
owned); this might also include local bank loans that keep local dollars
circulating in the community. There is also an induced effect: the economic
activity generated by re-spending the wages earned by those directly and
indirectly involved in the project. All of this combined can add up to a
significant economic benefit for local communities.
Investments in local
renewable energy in particular help the local economy. These projects tend to
be labor-intensive, so they generally involve more jobs per dollar invested (as
much as three times more according to the Wisconsin Energy Bureau) than
conventional energy projects. They also tend to use more local resources, so
more energy dollars stay at home. It’s a win–win situation.
What types of local energy
projects might work in your community? Most of the large, centralized,
fossil-fueled energy systems for coal, oil, and natural gas that we rely on
cannot be scaled down to local community size. Most cities and towns don’t have
oil wells or refineries in their backyards—to say nothing of coal mines.
Virtually none of the sprawling fossil fuel infrastructure is adaptable for
local use. Happily, many renewable energy systems can be scaled down for small