February 13, 2018

Pushing local control over electric power

Bloomberg -  For more than 25 years [Paul Fenn's] been pushing the idea that local communities ought to be able to set up their own power agencies to compete with established utilities. Local control, he says, can produce lower rates and greater use of renewable energy.

Fenn’s campaign is finally getting traction, especially in green-minded California....The combination of local power providers and rooftop solar panels last year took an estimated 25 percent of the state’s retail electricity business away from the big, investor-owned utilities. That could rise to 85 percent within about 10 years, regulators say.

In other parts of the country, the shift has been slower. Still, hundreds of cities in Illinois, Massachusetts, and Ohio have formed local energy providers. In Westchester County, N.Y., one began in 2016 that serves 20 municipalities, and Governor Andrew Cuomo is keen for more. Boston is poised to start one shortly. At least seven states now allow the programs. “I wanted a solution that harnessed the power of local democracy,” says Fenn, 52.

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