Critical Role of Communities
As we enter the 112th Congressional session, national energy remains a critical policy issue. Given the visceral reaction against regulation embodied by certain newly appointed Representatives, it does not appear that sweeping national energy efficiency policies will be achieved this term, despite the copious data linking new energy economies to job growth, energy independence and sustainable development.
While it is not surprising that the American Petroleum Institute’s President and CEO Jack Gerard claims oil and natural gas should remain primary energy sources, his assertions overlook the economic and ecological reality: renewable energy is ultimately the only path to a sustainable energy future. Furthermore, a sustainable energy future is feasible now. Renewable energy and energy efficiency investments are critical to transitioning away from our nation’s reliance on non-renewable sources and ensuring energy security.
The good news is that, despite the absence of strong federal regulatory signals, federal funding opportunities for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects continue to empower states and communities to develop energy policies that will meet their current and future needs. Community-specific energy policy can address local issues of utility governance, bonding and infrastructure programs, state and local jurisdictional issues, property tax limitations, and regulation. In fact, given the unique needs of growing communities across the United States, flexible local policy and financing variations are an ideal approach to address specific regional energy development objectives.
Communities across the nation are leading the charge towards sustainable development and renewable energy futures. Each community has its own set of circumstances that shapes policy and financing decisions, but in all cases, efficient, renewable energy strategies will support regional growth if achieved at the scale, depth, and speed necessary to realize potential economic benefits of clean energy investment.
Regardless of national policy paralysis, communities can and will continue to lead the way towards energy efficiency and renewable energy development. Emergent community efforts to achieve economic and environmental benefits of sustainable development practices can offer models for other municipalities as well as serve as case studies for best practices to support at state and national levels.
For a comprehensive discussion of the benefits of, as well as tools, case studies, and models for financing clean energy programs, see the New Energy Cities "Energizing Cities" report. Working together, cities, states and regions can achieve appropriately scaled renewable energy and efficiency policies that will enhance economies and enable sustainable growth. Financing tools are already available, and there is no time like the present to start working towards a sustainable energy future.