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Author Archives: John Farrell

Solar: Choice, Competition, & Clean Air

July 31st, 2017 | by John Farrell

It’s simple to promote solar power as a money saver and clean alternative to fossil fuel generation. But it sells solar short to focus only on savings, when it also gives Americans the freedom to generate their own energy and to challenge the economic and political power of big corporations.


Broadly Sharing the Benefits of “Decarbonization”

July 27th, 2017 | by John Farrell

Last summer, I saw a presentation on “deep decarbonization” that outlined necessary changes in the US economy in order to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The presentation was fascinating, offering some very specific elements to focus our attention. For example, the following graphic shows the average number of replacements for various infrastructure types prior to the typical deadline of 2050. A hot water heater might be swapped three times by 2050, providing several opportunities to make it more efficient or switch its fuel source. Conversely, a power plant might be replaced once (if at all), and a new home is likely to still be in use past the 2050 deadline


Is Bigger Best in Renewable Energy? (Webinar Video)

July 24th, 2017 | by John Farrell

On December 5th, I delivered a webinar presentation detailing the findings of our recent report, Is Bigger Best in Renewable Energy? In this presentation, Farrell discusses how conventional wisdom suggests that larger solar and wind projects deliver energy at lower costs, but that location matters, and that the point of delivery and ownership matter more


Inclusive Financing Report: Part 1 — A Huge Opportunity

July 17th, 2017 | by John Farrell

The best energy efficiency programs serve less than 2% of customers each year, and few reach the majority of a utility’s customers, including renters, customers without strong credit, and low- and moderate-income households, who pay disproportionately high energy bills


A Massachusetts Co-op Makes A Powerful Vintage

June 19th, 2017 | by John Farrell

For more than five years, Vineyard Power Cooperative has provided electricity customers living in one of Massachusetts’ best-known island communities the chance to buy into an energy future that favors renewables and bolsters their local economy


RePower Madison Challenges Old Electric Monopoly Model

June 5th, 2017 | by John Farrell

An unconventional approach to grassroots organizing in Wisconsin’s capital city has in recent years tipped incumbent utility Madison Gas & Electric (MGE) toward policies that favor consumers and renewables, a distinct shift in a state held back for years by entrenched monopolies with outdated business plans


“Is Bigger Best?” Report — Part 3: Why Economics Isn’t The Problem

May 15th, 2017 | by John Farrell

Despite an American fascination with big things, the key to unlocking renewable energy is found in small packages as well as big ones. And one key to understanding the debate is to understand the players, with incumbent utility companies (and their incentive to build big things to make money) playing an outsize role in the debate over the right size of wind and solar


“Is Bigger Best?” Report — Part 2: Limits to Scale in Solar

May 11th, 2017 | by John Farrell

The question of scale economies in solar has been both a technological and an economic one. As mentioned before, the contention in the late 2000s was that concentrating solar thermal power plant technology would outstrip solar photovoltaics (PV) because the latter was marginally more efficient (at the point of generation) and could incorporate energy storage.


Short-Sighted Utility Stymies Solar In Milwaukee

April 20th, 2017 | by John Farrell

Back in 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy recognized Milwaukee as a budding leader in the movement to promote solar power at the local level. Nearly a decade later, the city’s success in promoting solar remains handcuffed by an investor-owned utility fighting progress in favor of the status quo


In Maryland, Community Solar Pioneers Offer Blueprint

April 17th, 2017 | by John Farrell

A pair of rooftop solar arrays in Maryland spotlight how pioneering communities can pool their resources to expand local access to renewable energy. These “community solar” projects are an increasingly popular approach as electricity customers renounce utilities’ reliance on fossil fuel and look for ways to cut their energy costs


San Diego Sets Vision, Vets Options for 100% Renewables

April 10th, 2017 | by John Farrell

Late last year, San Diego set a landmark goal that made it the largest U.S. city to target a 100% renewable electricity mix over the next two decades. But as the pact’s first anniversary approaches, big questions loom over how exactly San Diego will hit the ambitious benchmark



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