Europe is changing its energy service game to enable both local climate action and collaboration. Meanwhile, NGOs and energy consultants in Europe and the US are stepping up to the task of collecting and disseminating program statistics and organizing them according to program goals and project types.
Renewable Energy Communities. Are 21st century energy utilities natural monopolies, public service providers, enablers of community renewable energy, or all the above? We think all the above.
The EU seems to agree.
When IRESN took up the topic of “integrated renewable energy systems” a decade ago, we imagined an expanding renewable integration challenge driven by community-scale and building-scale renewable energy systems as well by utility-scale power plants. Now new technologies are changing what we imagined into a real and urgent challenge. The figure summarizes vectors of energy sector change that are already in effect. Collaborative planning will need to be local as well as regional.
There is anecdotal evidence of the need for collaboration. For proponents of local clean energy resources there is an even more basic question. Why energy resources that are both clean and local? The case is compelling.
Simply put, local¹ clean energy resources are happening, unevenly around the world, mostly, except for California, outside the US. They come in many sizes. So do utilities. So do cities. Maybe we need a common denominator if we are to connect dots more strategically and less anecdotally.
In an era of big data, the trade-off between local economic optimization and utility system-wide optimization can be readily informed by data-driven economic analysis. There is no motivation to do the analysis now because no adjustments are possible. But if local energy franchise agreements were mandated by the state to consider the possibility of city/utility collaboration on local economic and carbon footprint reduction goals, the parties would be motivated to engage.
In California, state regulators are starting to assert jurisdiction over Community Choice business planning, citing the need for consistency between the supply plans of all energy service providers. Does this solve a real, on-going problem?