Toward Energy Democracy

Resnick, Bill
Date Written:  2014-09-01
Publisher:  Against the Current
Year Published:  2014
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20798

As energy systems are beginning to transition towards greener alternatives to fossil fuels, a debate surrounding its production emerges.



In the United States, on the one side of the struggle are the corporate energy apparatuses including the Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs), the fossil fuel industry, their financiers, and various state actors (legislatures, regulators, planners that the IOUs have colonized though do not completely control).

Their aim is to maintain a highly profitable centralized system featuring big finance and big IOUs, managing huge production facilities feeding electricity into a new multi-trillion dollar grid, this system slowly replacing fossil fuels with large remote solar and wind farms.

On the other side stand the populist broadly democratic forces of "distributed energy" (DE), often called community energy, i.e. networks of small dispersed sun and wind electricity production units, employing mass-produced off-the-shelf devices -- solar panels and wind microturbines, their prices rapidly declining -- that can be quickly and cheaply installed by small construction firms.

California already has over 100,000 rooftop solar units. In the DE movement’s vision, eventually multiple millions of relatively small local production units will feed into existing grids, hardened and smartened at modest expense and also fortified by adding storage capacity. In that vision the local system will be managed and maintained by local organization; the whole system is to be managed by regional and national confederations of the locals.

DE systems are at the heart of a radical transformation to stop climate change: the promise of a new world from, literally, the ashes of the old.
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