Energy Democracy in 4 Powerful Steps

Democracy from Distributed Power

Democracy from Decentralization

The miniaturization of power generation allows for decentralization. Wind and solar power sources don’t rely on pipeline infrastructure or railroad lines, but can be built wherever we can economically harness the resource — nearly everywhere.

Democracy from Ownership

Decentralized and miniaturized power generation also democratizes ownership. When power plants can be financed by ordinary citizens and can be located anywhere, it’s no longer necessary to restrict ownership to utility companies. Instead, millions of residents and businesses can own a stake in their energy future, and invest in keeping more of their community’s energy dollars at home. For example, every megawatt of solar installed locally adds $2.5 million and 20 construction jobs to the local economy. In its 25-year lifetime, a locally owned solar project will redirect an additional $5.4 million of electricity spending back into local pockets.

Democracy from Disruptive Technology

The democratization of energy goes further than the technology and ownership of power generation. It encompasses access to new communications technology and the exponential growth (and reduction in cost) of several complementary technologies like batteries.

From Energy Monopoly to Energy Democracy

These disruptions open the door to transition from energy monopoly to energy democracy. A massively expanded grid will power vehicles as well as buildings and devices, and that power will come from everywhere. One resident’s rooftop solar array will share power at noon, while another will offer stored energy from an electric vehicle or standalone battery in the evening. A local hardware store will provide the expertise to install solar but also fast charging for electric vehicles, whose batteries will help cut daytime demand charges from the grid management company. A retail store will offer low-cost charging from its solar parking lot canopy, and use the plugged-in cars to offer frequency regulation services to the grid manager. The utility won’t build power plants or centrally control the grid anymore, but will manage the market, facilitating these neighborhood transactions that serve the users and the greater grid. The following graphic illustrates the evolution.

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Inst: Local Self-Reliance

Inst: Local Self-Reliance

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The Institute for Local Self-Reliance has a vision of thriving, diverse, equitable communities. To reach this, we build local power to fight corporate control