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Corporate utilities dominate how electricity is generated, transmitted, and distributed or sold to the customer — resulting in both a lack of safety measures as well as costly, short-sided, and dirty energy investments. This affects all of us as we confront our climate crisis and disproportionately harms the communities of color and low-income households that live near dirty power plants and within warmer inner cities. The solution to concentration lies in embracing decentralized ownership and generation. Acting individually or collectively, we have a new opportunity to bypass concentrated power and build wealth by using local solar energy to power our lives. This report describes how state and local policy solutions can foster those community-based clean energy solutions. Efforts include broadening usage data access to ensure transparency, preventing conflicts of interest between utilities and regulatory commissions, and enforcing fair compensation and rate standards to cut into monopolies market dominance.
Community solar, also called “shared solar”, creates local economic value. Residents save money on their monthly bills by subscribing to a “solar garden”––they reserve a share in a solar array located offsite, and the power generated by their solar panels shows up as a credit on their utility bill. Building solar gardens can also create local jobs, promote community climate resilience, and can reduce emissions from carbon-based electricity generation. While the economic, climate, and resilience benefits of community solar are compelling, the extent to which a community solar program drives equitable outcomes depends on its design. This report provides guidance for creating community solar programs that promote racial and economic equity.
A nation of renewable-powered, job-generating, self-reliant states is within reach – and necessary; improved renewable electricity technology would allow nearly every state to produce 100 percent of its electricity needs from local renewable sources. This report includes a series of maps that illustrate nationwide renewable electricity potential from a wide variety of sources, including rooftop solar, offshore wind, onshore wind, geothermal, and small hydro. Additionally, this report also includes maps that demonstrate how decreased energy intensity could offset increased electricity demand from high electrification.
Renewable energy serves as a viable solution to replace fossil fuel generation to create a healthier environment. A number of cities across the United States are pledging to reach community-wide goals of 100 percent renewable energy, in order to combat the social, environmental, and economic impacts of climate change; however, many of these cities are unsure of how to meet these commitments. The goal of this report is to utilize qualitative and quantitative data through a national survey and case studies to help understand the mechanisms that will best enable cities and their decision-makers to equitably transition to 100% renewable energy.
This report identifies the root causes of Baltimore’s failed and inequitable waste system, and how its impacts intersect with racial and economic justice. The Baltimore Sustainability Plan will enable the city to move towards a new system of fair development aligned with human rights principles anchored to a Zero Waste framework. This plan recognizes the challenges and opportunities towards meeting Baltimore’s Zero Waste goal and includes several initiatives to have a major shift towards expanding composting, making the city’s recycling program reliably and coventiently to all, while emphasizing Zero Waste opportunities to create local jobs.
Water main geothermal combines the efficiency and technical capability of ground-source geothermal in cold climates with costs competitive to fossil gas furnaces. This report shows that water main geothermal could provide a viable, cost-effective alternative to traditional home heating and cooling systems. Through it, homeowners would benefit from lower heating and cooling costs, water utilities would benefit from a new source of income, and cities would benefit from reaching their climate commitments.
Small, locally owned businesses are critical to creating thriving communities and an equitable U.S. economy. However, America’s small businesses are facing dire economic consequences, with many of them closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To address these circumstances, this report offers recommendations for community leaders to provide quick relief to keep businesses afloat, help businesses adapt, and fix systemic problems that the pandemic has laid bare.
Rural regions in the United States largely lack high-quality internet access. However, a substantial minority of rural areas actually have internet infrastructure that is better than what metro regions have on average. Locally-rooted cooperatives have already invested in fiber optic networks and are an important tool for expanding access in a responsible manner across rural America. States can encourage this growth by easing restrictions on cooperative broadband networks and increasing funding opportunities. Cooperatives are often eligible for state and local grants. If you live a rural area, talk to your neighbors, co-op manager, and board members about the potential for internet networks—successful cooperative projects are community led projects.
Minnesota is the national leader in community solar, with 208 projects around the state, more than a third of all community solar projects in the US. The Community Solar Garden policy makes it easy to develop and subscribe to solar power. Residents, businesses, and non-profit organizations not suited to housing solar panels can invest in solar power by subscribing to the output of a solar garden located somewhere else. This innovation has made it easy to go solar and has led to increased growth. The rapid growth of community solar has been a major source of job creation in Minnesota and has created economic incentives for rural landowners and counties to lease their land for solar projects. Policies and programs can be adapted to increase the accessibility of community solar to residential and low-income customers.
This ordinance requires that new commercial and residential buildings or 'substantially improved' buildings to meet specific energy performance standards. The ordinance requires commercial and high rise residential structures between 10,000 and 50,000 square feet to meet basic LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. In addition, buildings equal to or larger than 50,000 square feet must meet the LEED Silver certification.