Push for community ownership and control

Community ownership is a way to capture economic benefits and control over the energy system.

One goal of many BIPOC and frontline communities in renewable energy policies is to own the energy system in order to both capture economic benefits and have control over the energy system. However, there are often overwhelming barriers limiting opportunities for ownership for BIPOC and frontline communities—they are renters, their roofs are aging and are not appropriate for solar, or they do not qualify for loans or tax incentives.

So much of the current energy system is utility-controlled and driven. 100% regenerative energy policies should include the transition from our privatized, for-profit utilities to public control. And even though there are now thousands of Publicly Owned Utilities (POUs), a POU on its own does not guarantee equitable 100% regenerative energy policies. These types of policies usually are the result of strong civic engagement and democratic participation. This Building Blocks document calls for the ideal scenario where our utilities create strong, equitable 100% regenerative energy standards, regardless of a powerful organizing effort pushing them in the right direction. Renewable energy policies approach energy as a right for the commons, and aim to eliminate privatized control.

Policy recommendations

Community ownership and control can be created with a proper policies including:

  • • Incentives for community ownership structures. Policy or financial incentives should be included to encourage community ownership structures, which are generally much higher cost. And technical assistance should be provided to ensure these structures are successful.
  • • Community Choice Aggregation (CCA). Community-owned renewables are owned locally, by members of the community. “A Community Choice energy program enables cities and counties to procure electricity and reduce energy consumption for residents and local businesses. In this way, communities decide where their electricity will come from: whether to purchase electricity on the market, or more importantly, to build local renewable energy resources in the community.”[1] Although a CCA on its own does not create opportunities for community ownership, community ownership principles can be incorporated into the CCA’s procurement practices (i.e. a carveout, incentive, or preference for community owned projects).
  • • Community Shared Renewables that may or may not be locally owned, but the community can share the output. Group purchasing involves collective action to purchase renewable energy, such as rooftop solar arrays, but the benefits accrue to the individuals who host the solar on their rooftops.”[2]

Policy approaches for 100% regenerative energy to achieve public control are

  • Include a labor- and community-driven study about the transition of the utility back to the public.
  • Public receivership. Any utilities asking for public bailouts should be put into public receivership and begin a transition to community control.

Examples

References

  1. Community Choice Energy.” Local Clean Energy Alliance. Accessed 27 Jul. 2019.
  2. Farrell, John. “Report: Beyond Sharing – How Communities Can Take Ownership of Renewable Power.” Institute for Local Self Reliance, 26 Apr. 2016.