Local Renewable Energy Benefits and Resources
Local governments can dramatically reduce their carbon footprint by purchasing or directly generating electricity from clean, renewable sources.
The most common renewable power technologies include:
- Solar (photovoltaic, solar thermal)
- Biogas (e.g., landfill gas/wastewater treatment digester gas)
- Low-impact hydroelectricity
- Emerging technologies – wave and tidal power
Local governments can lead by example by generating energy on–site, purchasing green power, or purchasing renewable energy. Using a combination of renewable energy options can help meet local government goals especially in some regions where availability and quality of renewable resources vary.
Options for using renewable energy include:
- Generating renewable energy on-site using a system or device at the location where the power is used (e.g., PV panels on a state building, geothermal heat pumps, biomass-fueled combined heat and power).
- Purchasing green power through through renewable energy certificates (RECs) – also known as green tags, green energy certificates, or tradable renewable certificates – that represent the technology and environmental attributes of electricity generated from renewable resources.
- Purchasing renewable energy from an electric utility through a green pricing or green marketing program, where buyers pay a small premium in exchange for electricity generated locally from green power resources.
Benefits of Renewable Energy
Environmental and economic benefits of using renewable energy include:
- Generating energy that produces no greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and reduces some types of air pollution
- Diversifying energy supply and reducing dependence on imported fuels
- Creating economic development and jobs in manufacturing, installation, and more
Implementing On-site Renewable Energy Projects
On-site power generation provides local governments with the most direct access to renewable energy. In addition to the overall benefits, on-site projects also provide a hedge against financial risks and improve power quality and supply reliability.
However, local governments considering on-site generation may face possible technical, financial, and regulatory challenges. To overcome these challenges, local governments can:
- Assess the availability of local renewable resources
- Consider the costs of different renewable technologies
- Examine the aggregate costs and benefits of on-site green power
- Consider permitting requirements for locations where the facility could be sited
- Involve local stakeholders, particularly concerning siting
- Assess available sources of financing and other incentives