According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), renewable energy must generate almost half of the world’s power by 2050 in order to slow/stop climate change. Shifting to clean, renewable energy supports energy independence as well as climate action goals at the local, state, national, and global levels. In California, the renewable portfolio standard requires the state’s investor-owned utilities to increase procurement from eligible renewable energy resources by at least 1% of their retail sales annually, until they reach 33% by 2020. These ambitious goals continue to feed strong innovation and investment in renewable energy technologies and projects.
Cities and Counties
Local governments can support the expansion of clean, renewable energy through their control of local infrastructure and land use, as well as their influence with residents and businesses. Some cities and counties may have space appropriate for larger renewable energy installations, such as landfills, wastewater treatment plants, reservoirs, or water pumping facilities. In addition, some municipalities encompass dense urban environments, with rooftop space on commercial and apartment buildings suitable for solar or small wind installations. Local governments handle issues like permits for solar rooftop and small wind efforts and influence permits for transmission.
Renewable energy also represents an economic development opportunity for local governments. Many local governments in California are working to attract and retain renewable technology companies to their areas. The long-term viability of these companies is dependent on ensuring there is a market for their products. Local governments want to help other businesses in their jurisdictions install the technologies being designed and manufactured by renewable energy companies.
A key challenge faced by local governments, particularly in the current economic climate, is that renewable energy projects have to make sense both financially and environmentally. This gives them a keen eye for funding support, state and federal incentives, creative partnerships, and other ways to improve the economics of renewable energy. Local governments also strive to bring financial support to local businesses and residents seeking to install renewable energy systems.
Local Government Sustainable Energy Coalition
The Coalition continues to work on behalf of our members to remove financial and logistical obstacles to renewable energy — whether solar, wind, wave, or biofuels. The Coalition supports members’ efforts to develop a variety of renewable energy projects, many of them quite small, by shaping State regulatory policy. The Coalition closely monitors the progress and proceedings at the key State regulatory agencies and steps in decisively whenever important local government interests are at stake.
The Coalition advocates for well-structured, long-term funding and incentive programs for clean energy. For example, we have encouraged the State to make a long-term commitment to the California Solar Initiative. The Coalition also advocates for reliable access to a feed-in tariff, which enables local governments and businesses to sell any excess electricity through long-term contracts and thus makes more renewable energy pencil out.
The Coalition supports policies like Assembly Bill 2466 (2009) that can unlock opportunities for local governments to deploy more renewable energy systems. AB 2466 allows a local government to install a renewable energy system up to 1 MW at one site, and net the energy produced against energy usage at other municipal sites.
In addition, the Coalition remains instrumental to the progress of community choice aggregation, in which local communities aggregate the buying power of individual customers and enter into energy supply contracts – generally with more renewable sources than the utility company. In fact, the Coalition grew out of an ad hoc group of local governments that shaped the ground rules for community choice aggregation in 2004 and 2005. Those rules recognize the ability and authority of local governments to develop and implement programs that meet their community’s energy goals.