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Community Solar Programs and the Democratization of the Energy System

Environmental Policy
Political Participation
Steve Hoffman
University of St. Thomas
Steve Hoffman
University of St. Thomas
Angela High-Pippert
University of St. Thomas

Community solar initiatives are a significant threat to the existing system of electricity production and consumption. Not only can community solar displace a great deal of central-station production, it also affords an opportunity to recast the governance of the electricity system by infusing more meaningful public participation into the process. Two American states, Colorado and Minnesota, are in the forefront of this development, the latter having recently enacted the Solar Energy Incentive Program, which, in part, requires that by 2020, at least 1.5 percent of the utility’s retail electricity sales in the state be produced from solar energy. This paper discusses the potential conflict between the goals of increasing a state’s solar generating capacity and the democratization of the electricity system by examining various organizational models for the development of community solar initiatives. It also examines a number of projects that aim to increase household participation in the solar market.
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