Policy - Local Level

Counties Investing in Green Strategies according to NACo Survey

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Driven by finding ways to reduce the cost of running local government, the nation's counties are implementing innovative green government strategies and say they have seen cost‐savings as a result, according to a new survey from the National Association of Counties (NACo).

LCSWMA - PPL Wind Turbines
Wind turbine erected at Frey Farm Landfill, Conestoga, PA for Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority by PPL Renewable Energy, September 2010.

The NACo Green Government Initiative surveyed all of America's 3,068 counties on their current and future sustainability strategies, priorities, and the challenges, with 18 percent of counties responding to the survey. The survey analyzed the responding counties' demographic and geographic characteristics, including a population analysis and regional and climate assessment. Among the key findings:

  • Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Generation along with Waste Management are the most common sustainability efforts counties are pursuing.
  • 68 percent affirmed that their county has sustainability strategies underway.
  • 45 percent said the most important benefit counties are realizing from sustainability efforts is cost savings.
  • Overwhelmingly, funding is the most significant challenge inhibiting counties from accomplishing all sustainability strategies.
  • The majority of respondents would like to further invest in:
  1. Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Generation
  2. Waste Management
  3. Green Building Construction/Renovation, and Water Conservation/Reuse
  4. Green Purchasing, Local Food Systems, and Green Economic Development

“Counties are clearly national leaders in pursuing green government efforts to help protect the environment and save taxpayers' money,” said Green Government Initiative Chair Shannon Staub, Commissioner, Sarasota County, Fla. “This survey is just one more example of the work NACo's Green Government Initiative is doing to help us all better understand county sustainability strategies, what efforts are working, and where do we go from here.”

The survey's findings are available in the NACo publication 2010 County Sustainability Strategies.

Report Uses Cases Studies to Explore Community Wind

Lessons & Concepts for Advancing Community Wind, released by The Minnesota Project, seeks to advance the development of community-based wind projects in the United States by drawing keys to success and policy recommendations from three compelling Midwestern case studies.

Wind energy continues to experience double digit growth rates because of the relatively cheap technology and the widespread availability of wind resources, and numerous studies have now shown that locally-owned wind projects produce disproportionate benefits to the local community and region where they are built. This presents community wind energy development as a stand-out opportunity for communities across America to pursue locally-owned projects that will help meet their electricity needs and contribute to energy independence while also providing tremendous economic benefits. 

Report Contents:

  • Section I: Community Wind Case Studies
    • Winona County, MN
    • City of Willmar, MN
    • Miner County, SD
  • Section II: Keys to Success
    • Visioning & Planning
    • Project Leadership
    • Involving the Community
    • Financing & Pricing
  • Section III: Solutions for Advancing Community Wind
    • Dispersed Generation Studies
    • Siting & Permitting Standardization
    • Establishing or Improving C-BED Legislation
    • Rural Utility Service Loans
    • Investment Tax Credit or Cash Grant
    • Net Metering
    • Advanced Renewable Tariffs
    • Standard Offer Contracts
    • Increasing Renewable Portfolio Standards

Analysis of Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariffs in the U.S.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has published a report analyzing the impacts that state level feed-in tariff policies can have on the renewable energy industry across the country. The report uses data and reports from around the world to highlight the various benefits that a feed-in tariff type of policy can have on renewable energy development.

A feed-in tariff is an energy policy that provides for a guarantee of payment to renewable energy developers for the energy that is produced. This type of policy can be thought of as an advanced form of a production-based incentive because payments are made for the actual electricity produced and not for how much capacity is installed. The most common feed-in tariff payment is based on the actual levelized cost of renewable energy generation. This method of payment provides a price adequate to ensure a reasonable rate of return on for investors. 

The authors of the report delve into the various advantages of feed-in tariff policies and the number of challenges to implementing feed-in tariff policies in the U.S. The report also provides a review of the current state-level and utility-level feed-in tariff policies that are currently in place across the county and compares them with the successful models found in Europe. These states include Gainesville, Florida; various Wisconsin utilities; California; Vermont (report was written prior to passage of the state-wide feed-in tariff so this analysis focuses on the two utility-specific programs); Washington; and Oregon. The authors wrap up the report with a discussion of best practices for feed-in tariff policy design and implementation, followed by an analysis on how to use a feed-in tariff policy to achieve state renewable energy goals.

The authors highlight one of the most important elements of a feed-in tariff policy - that it allows for more participants in renewable energy project development. In their analysis the authors state that there are significant impacts of a feed-in tariff on developing community ownership, but it will depend on how the program is structured and payments determined. 

You can read the full report here (PDF).

"Wind Energy Guide for County Commissioners" from NACO

This guide from the National Association of Counties was released in November, 2006. According to the NACO website, "this publication is designed to provide county commissioners, planners,
and other local county government officials with a practical overview
of information required to successfully implement commercial wind
energy projects in their county."

Click here to download the guide from the NACO website.

Property Taxation of Wind Generation Assets

"Property Taxation of Wind Generation Assets," North American Windpower, May 2006, Vol. 3, No. 4, pp. 31-34. This article, written by Warren Ault, summarizes research he did for Windustry in 2005 into the actual and potential local economic benefits of wind power, focusing particularly on a survey of the varieties of approaches throughout the United States to the use of local property taxes. Click on the link below to download a PDF copy of the article.

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