At the Paris climate change talks, one presentation by a group of American officials raised awareness about the benefits of community energy programs. The group’s members were:

  • Shawn Marshall, Lean Energy US
  • Cliff Rechtschaffen, Office of California Governor Jerry Brown
  • Dawn Weisz, CEO, Marin Clean Energy (MCE)
  • Tom Butt, Mayor, City of Richmond, California.

One of the benefits of such programs is helping to meet climate change carbon reduction goals by focusing on the development of renewable energy projects to replace fossil fuels. The mayor of Richmond, California, explained that once they were fully enrolled, the city’s ratepayers saved $1 million dollars. He also talked about the development of a solar power plant.

300 people will be employed during the construction, which will help them for the duration of the project, but they will also learn skills that can help them continue working in the solar power field. The larger goal is to move towards a decarbonized economy, within the context of a long-term sustainability goal.

Marin Clean Energy has achieved an impressive level of renewable electricity — 56%, while the local utility is less than 30%. The clean energy group was created in 2010, so it only took five years to reach that mark. It also has over 170,000 customers, so clearly there is interest within the service area.

Offering an alternative to electricity provided by utilities can spur market competition, something which has not existed very much historically in the sector.

As was noted on the Institute For Local Self-Reliance’s website, “For example, by 2022, on-site solar power could provide less costly electricity than the electric utility for at least 10% of residential and commercial customers in nearly every state. In that timeframe, electric vehicles and other energy storage options combined with powerful ‘apps’ will give utility customers unprecedented control over their energy use.”

Of course, it’s no surprise that energy programs developed by communities can be effective — they are customized for an area and a population to address its specific needs.