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.
It is time to recognize that a successful transition to a future decarbonized and more secure and resilient local infrastructure can’t be done at the state level or in silos at any level. It will depend on the expertise and capacities of both natural gas and electric utilities and their collaboration with counties and cities if it is to proceed as the fastest possible pace.
Natural gas utility collaboration with cities and counties must receive policy attention at least comparable to collaboration involving electric utilities. Current levels of reliability and resilience provided by natural gas utilities must carry forward continuously as hydrogen emerges as an enabler of the energy sector transition of the 21st Century.
In case you missed it, collaboration is in vogue these days, despite, or perhaps because of, partisan divides.
Collaboration among public institutions is essential when change is required. Especially when the institutions are mutually dependent. For example, if counties and cities encourage the adoption of new technologies that use or produce energy locally, planning and delivery of energy utility services is affected. If energy utilities offer programs that engage their customers in changing the energy infrastructure inside buildings or vehicles, local governments must account for these changes in their code enforcement, project permitting, and non-energy infrastructure planning and maintenance activities.
What’s seems to move the local carbon footprint needle best and fastest is the cumulative effect of a lot of individual decisions US families and businesses are mostly free to make. At a minimum they require good credit and modest, prudent initiative. Local governments and energy utilities can make such decisions easier or harder. Easier if they collaborate. Much harder if they don’t. What would local energy collaboration look like if it became the norm across the US? To read more, click here.