Community Ownership of Clean Energy Infrastructure, Explained
Achieving climate goals in the United States and elsewhere will require an unprecedented expansion of clean sources of electricity, the electric transmission grid, and other climate-friendly infrastructure. Yet, progress has slowed in recent months. In 2022, the pace of clean power installations declined for the first time in five years, with a 15% drop in installations relative to 2021, or 4.4 GW less capacity installed. Additionally, the first quarter of 2023 had the lowest quarterly renewable energy additions of the last three years. Developers reported delays adding an average of six months or longer to project timelines, driven by a combination of techno-economic and socio-political factors. Such barriers include public opposition to technologies and siting, inefficient planning and permitting processes, and limited access to capital.
One proposed solution to help address both techno-economic and socio-political challenges facing clean energy infrastructure deployment is greater use of alternative ownership and financing schemes, such as community ownership. Community ownership is frequently cited as an opportunity to diversify project funding, garner local economic benefits, and increase community receptivity to local siting.
The fact sheet below provides a primer on community ownership and is an invitation for further research into the topic. As we seek to deploy clean energy infrastructure at the pace and scale necessary to meet our climate ambitions, researchers and policymakers should give community ownership models more consideration and observe implemented models to ensure they yield their intended results.