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Community energy initiatives offer a potentially important means for reshaping the electrical system in a manner compatible with emissions reduction goals. Within the United States, such initiatives have been organized at the regional, state, and local levels. After presenting a model of community energy, we explore the relationship between “bottom-up” community energy initiatives and cities. This pilot study includes a telephone survey with city administrators from ten Minnesota communities working toward meeting and exceeding the state goals for energy efficiency and global warming emissions reductions, as identified by a recent state legislative report. The principle focus of the paper pertains to each city’s efforts to involve community members and/or households in energy efficiency and conservation and the level of cooperation between each city and community energy initiatives and other community organizations. Whether a city defines its energy goals in terms of what city hall can do or what community members can do has both theoretical and practical application.
There is a growing recognition that effective climate mitigation strategies will require movement away large scale, centralised production technologies to decentralized or distributed forms of generation (O’Brien 2009). This, in turn, will necessitate action at the local and community levels and the involvement of a large number and range of different actors (DECC, 2009). At the present time, however, the strongest appeal of so-called “community energy” programming has been as a rhetorical device useful for capturing public support for otherwise controversial projects (Hoffman and High-Pippert 2007 and 2005b). Moving beyond this point will necessarily engage the question posed by Amory Lovins more than three decades ago, namely, whether or not it is possible for “everyone [to] get into the act, unimpeded by centralized bureaucracies [and make] energy choices through the democratic political process” (1977, 99). In other words, is it possible to embed a meaningful and substantive idea of “community” when doing “community energy” programs? In order to answer this question, it is useful to begin with the presentation and discussion of a model of community energy.
A Community Energy Model
The model of community energy presented in Figure 1 illuminates a number of important issues, one of the most important of which concerns the locus of activity or the choice between “top-down” or institutionally driven efforts or “bottom-up” initiatives. In the case of the former, the model offers several institutional alternatives that populate local government authority in the United States, namely, cities, counties, and municipal utilities and cooperative utilities. Also included are school districts, which turn out to be a fairly important vehicle for delivering community-based energy.
The model allows for a host of organizations and/or associations from which might be generated so-called “bottom-up” initiatives. These include organizations that could be “organic” or spontaneous in character as well as existing “social assets” that serve a more generic purpose. In the case of the former, a community organization can arise from the actions of a group of neighbors thinking about ways to reduce their overall carbon footprint or perhaps even trying to site a local generating station. Energy-related programs may also arise within existing social institutions such as schools or churches due to the concerns of a few parishioners or a charismatic school principal. The model also distinguishes between social organizations and the physical settings in which these organizations can arise. Thus, a “neighborhood” could be a Jane Jacobs-like aggregation of city streets, a suburban housing development, an apartment building or a senior living complex.
While the locus of activity is important, it is also critical to understand the type of program or activity under consideration. As is generally the case when dealing with the energy sector, two broad types of programs can be considered: supply-side programs, the most common being wind projects though there is increasing attention being given to solar projects, and demand-side initiatives that focus on behavioral changes at the level of the individual household or business. The model suggests that there are multiple ways to combine the locus of activity with various types of programs. For instance, certain types of projects, such as the development of large solar ‘power towers’, are best suited to well-funded institutional actors while others, such as technology swaps, i.e., convincing people to switch to high-efficiency lightbulbs, might work best in settings requiring little in the way of capital, time or effort on the part of individuals or firms.
A third key element of the model concerns the sort of governance that might characterize any program or initiative, that is, who is responsible for defining an initiative’s essential features. Another way of framing this question is to ask who “owns” the project, that is, does the ultimate control over the effort reside within the community or social organization or does it reside some distance from a significant number of community members. The model identifies two potential governance structures: a “weak” form of community governance versus a “strong” form. In the former, the reach of community members is constrained, being limited to financial partners or, as is the case of most so-called “community wind” projects, farmers fortunate enough to own the land upon which utility-scale wind machines can be built. Minnesota’s ‘flip’ model as well as the recently enacted C-BED legislation both rest upon this limited form of community governance (Kildegaard 2007).
A ‘strong’ version of community governance, on the other hand, involves a much greater depth of community participation. In this case, many more households and/or businesses are actively engaged in both the formative and operational stages of the initiative. Even here, however, the extent of participation is open to question. It might well be the case that participation is limited to a few very active individuals whose role it is to model desirable behaviors or to encourage their neighbors to engage in activities that require little time, effort or financial investment.
In this regard, the model evokes a host of questions related to the concepts of civic culture, social capital, and political engagement and participation. Consider, for instance, the question of social capital or the network of social assets required to successfully develop, initiate and maintain a project over a substantial period of time. In some cases, there might exist an enthusiastic group of neighbors who could “spread the word” up and down the block to such an extent that a new, informal or even formal organization takes shape. On the other hand, an existing set of informal social networks, such as a neighborhood garden or reading club, or even the much-maligned 1950’s era suburban ‘coffee klatch’, could serve as the foundation for success. The model also identifies existing social organizations, i.e. fraternal or service organizations and civic institutions such as churches or schools, as potential spawning grounds for successful community energy projects. It also allows for the consideration of whether or not community energy projects might foster the development of a deeper kind of social capital.
Finally, the model suggests a multi-method approach to the study of community energy projects. It also suggests that the analysis of “bottom-up” initiatives are best explored through a variety of distinct methods, including social network analysis, community mapping and a social assets approach, the choice of which is dictated by the specific question and case at hand.
“Top-down” or “Bottom-up” Initiatives: Which Way to Go?
One key to moving community energy projects forward is a greater degree of clarity regarding program design and the effect that this design has on stimulating the sorts of household and organizational behavior required to achieve concrete emissions reductions. After all, while social scientists may welcome the chance to explore the making or unmaking of social capital it seems unlikely that utilities and/or local authorities would invest in such programs for this reason. The model presented here suggests two possible answers to the problem of program design: (1) a series of programs initiated and ‘delivered’ by local authorities or (2) “bottom-up” programs, the essential character of which lie in a variety of community organizations, associations, and physical settings.
Two bodies of literature are useful in assessing which approach is likely to be most productive in generating the sorts of behaviorial changes that make a meaningful contribution to sustained, long-term emissions reduction: (1) literature relevant to innovation and the diffusion of that innovation and (2) recent research in the field of social psychology related to how social norms encourage behavioral change.
Innovation and Change
The problem of innovation and its diffusion has occupied the academic literature for at least the last several decades. Rice reports, for instance, that “a search for ‘diffusion of innovations’ in June 2008 found 257,000 entries through a general Google search, and 29,000 citations in Google Scholar” (2009) <1>.
Much of this literature has focused on the problem of diffusion within business and public sector organizations and/or macro-level policy changes undertaken by formal institutions such as states (Norberg-Bohn 1999). Only rarely has attention been directed towards innovation at the community level, much less at extremely decentralized or potentially diffuse units such as neighborhoods, churches, senior centers, or small chambers of commerce.
Two important elements characterize the innovation and diffusion literature. First, it is driven by an emphasis on the ‘practical’. According to Drazin and Schoonhoven, “the study of innovation appears to derive from practical rather than theoretical concerns [and] has been dominated by normative explanations of how to achieve an outcome seen as central to the interests of managers: increasing the number of innovations generated” (1996, 1065). Second, as Drazin and Schoonhoven also argue (1996, 1066):
[T]he theory used to explain these outcomes has changed little over 30 years. At its core, innovation theory is an adaptationist perspective guided by three basic assumptions: (1) innovation is universally desirable for organizations, (2) once an organization increases its size beyond a critical mass it becomes more inert, less capable of meaningful organizational change, and only haltingly proficient at innovation, and (3) certain structures and practices can overcome inertia and increase the generation rate of innovation.
A key factor in explaining the resistance of firms and individuals to innovation is the presence of uncertainty; a process that erodes this uncertainty is therefore crucial to the adoption of innovation. Hence, the diffusion of innovation hinges on the extent to which various actions, perceptions, communication processes and sources, social norms and structures sufficiently reduce the potential adopter’s uncertainty regarding the innovation. Rice, for instance, defines diffusion of innovation as “the process through which an innovation (an idea, product, technology, process or service) spreads (more or less rapidly, in more or less the same form) through mass and digital media, interpersonal and network communication, over time, through a social system, with a wide variety of consequences (positive and negative)” (2009).
The interaction among media, interpersonal communication, individualized social networks, and the wider social system interact in a variety of ways to affect the diffusion process. For instance, an individual in a social system may become aware of an innovation through various mass media. But a change agent, representing the institution or agency sponsoring the innovation, may increase the likelihood and diffusion of the adoption through interpersonal communication with the local opinion leader, who is densely connected with and influential for other members of the network. In other words, while mass media may be useful in the creation of knowledge (Rogers 1983, 273), “interpersonal channels are more effective in persuading an individual to adopt a new idea, especially if [they] are near-peers. Thus, the heart of the diffusion process is the modeling and imitation by potential adopters of their network partners who have adopted previously” (Rogers 1983, 18).
The reason why “near-peers” are so critical is that, as Weatherford points out, “even if the content is discussed, for the receiver to adopt it and (potentially) to influence others requires not only comprehension of the message but also attitude change and commitment” (1982, 122), a transformation which is more likely if information is communicated by peers rather than by experts (Rogers 1983, 331; see also Coleman 1959 and Weatherford 1982). Leonard-Barton makes the same point, arguing that “[N]umerous marketing and diffusion studies have demonstrated that the more favorable information a potential adopter has received from peers, the more likely that individual is to adopt” (1985, 914). Similar to the change agent, who represents the organization or agency sponsoring the innovation, and who works with opinion leaders and other clients to develop an understanding of the costs and benefits of the innovation, in organizational contexts the technology champion plays a significant interpersonal role in influencing the adoption of new organizational media (Howell and Higgins 1990).
More specifically, one’s location in a social system’s communication network strongly affects the speed and extent of information/adoption diffusion (Valente 2005). Weak ties, or infrequent communication with those who are not close, provide exposure to new ideas and information (Granovetter 1974). On the other hand, frequent social or physical exposure to influence from salient others is especially crucial for reducing uncertainty about the innovation, fostering supportive social norms, and persuading potential adopters (Rice, 1993a). The importance of interpersonal communication networks in combination with targeted media messages on diffusion of innovations has been popularized through concepts such as the tipping point or the need to influence a critical mass of adopters (Gladwell 2000; Markus 1987) and new product “buzz” (Rosen 2000). The recent development of online social networking web sites are also said to enable rapid diffusion of information and persuasive norms (Wang, Carley, Zeng and Mao 2007).
Network influences also provide explanations for how initial minority views about innovations generate wide-spread diffusion. Once innovators and those who may have more resources or can obtain early benefits adopt, then those with higher network adoption thresholds will be more open to adoption (Valente 2005).
The Power of Social Norms
The innovation and diffusion literature does not stand alone in suggesting the importance of community, peer-driven channels of change. Equally important is an emerging body of work that originates in the field of social psychology. Research on normative social influence clearly demonstrates the powerful effect of others’ behavior on our own, from classic works on the powerful effect of observing the development of social norms (Asch 1951, Sherif 1936) to more recent research that indicates that a written description of a social norm can be as powerful as direct observation in shaping conformity and individual behavior (Parks, Sanna, and Berel 2001). As Nolan, Schultz, Cialdini, Goldstein, and Griskevicious (2008) point out, this practice of providing a written description of the behavior of peers, such as neighbors or members of reference groups, has been effective at both discouraging behaviors (binge drinking) and encouraging behaviors (recycling).
Recent research in social psychology has focused on this connection between the influence of descriptive norms, which refer to how most people behave in a situation, and energy conservation among individuals. In their study of 810 Californians, Nolan et. al. (2008) asked participants about their efforts to conserve energy, as well as their reasons for doing so. The telephone survey included a question designed to gauge the importance of social norms in this decision (“In deciding to conserve energy, how important is it to you…(a) that using less energy saves money, (b) that it protects the environment, (c) that it benefits society, and (d) that a lot of other people are trying to conserve energy?”). Interestingly, the results of this study indicate that although participants believed that the behavior of their neighbors had the least impact on their own energy conservation, the reverse was actually true:
That is, normative information spurred people to conserve more energy than any of the standard appeals that are often used to stimulate energy conservation, such as protecting the environment,
being socially responsible, or even saving money. Descriptive norms had a powerful but underdetected effect on an importantsocial behavior: energy conservation (Nolan et. al. 2008, 921).
Similarly, recent field experiments have been conducted on the messages that hotels use to encourage guests to participate in an environmental conservation program by re-using their towels (Goldstein, Cialdini, and Griskevicious 2008). Once again, the power of descriptive norms is demonstrated, as the standard approach of framing participation in the program as protecting the environment was less effective than simply conveying the descriptive norm that most guests re-use their towels at least once during their stay (Goldstein, Cialdini, and Griskevicious 2008).
It stands to reason that if descriptive norms have the power to motivate environmental conservation in hotels, they should have a similar power to motivate energy conservation at home. Xcel Energy has been experimenting with this idea with a new three-year pilot program designed to encourage homeowners to reduce their energy consumption by comparing their usage to 100 neighbors in similar-size homes (Ziegler 2010). The comparison includes a colorful bar chart and smiley faces – two for “great” and one for “good.” <2>
Utilities in California, Washington, and Minnesota offer similar programs (Ziegler 2010). According to social psychology Robert Cialdini, who is a co-author on both of the social norms studies mentioned above, these programs are credited with a 2 to 3 percent decrease in energy use (Suzukamo 2009).
Innovation, Adaptation and Community Energy Systems
All of these various disciplinary perspectives converge to a single, important conclusion, namely that the successful diffusion of technology may depend as much upon the technology itself as the political and social context in which that technology is located (Frankel 1981). In the case of distributed energy, an effective diffusion process would begin with local agents who have expertise in the field of alternative energy systems. As pointed out above, however, caution must be exercised, since, while experts are credible agents for the dissemination of knowledge, particularly when individuals are faced with the decision of adopting a fairly complex technology such as solar thermal or solar PV systems, they are less credible for purposes of adoption (Rogers 1983, 331). An effective diffusion process would therefore combine locally-based experts, perhaps provided by local units of government (Ciglar 1981), with a network of “early adopting” peers who provide the psychological assurance so critical to the adoption decision. In order to respect what Rogers (1983) refers to as the principle of ‘homophily,’ the peers would ideally share attributes similar to the late adopters.
Such “diffusion vehicles” would also be sympathetic to the technology itself in that the spread of distributed generation options such as community wind, solar thermal or PV systems, and/or conservation and efficiency programs seem naturally suited to strongly decentralized organizations designed to influence behavior at the community and/or household level. Such processes also align with the presence and/or the development of social capital, i.e., informal socializing or “neighboring” activity, critical for the type of community engagement that could persuade people to adopt new energy technology or practices (Berkowitz 1996; Unger and Wandersman 1985). This notion is also familiar to political scientists, who use the language of “networks” and “environment” to examine the same processes and their impact on civic engagement and “the social flow of political information” necessary for the long-term success of community energy initiatives (Huckfeldt and Sprague 1987; Green and Brock 2005).
“Community-based energy organizations” (CBEOs) that combine a degree of expertise with “neighborliness”, while rare, are nonetheless beginning to emerge (see Hoffman and High-Pippert 2005 for some examples). To date, however, little systematic study of these organizations has been undertaken. One important reason for this lack of systematic inquiry is that up to this point, community energy has largely been understood as “top-down” institutional options or community initiatives that are based upon “weak” governance structures, thus obviating the need to look at initiatives built upon strong community governance (Hoffman and High-Pippert 2010, 2005). Yet, it is precisely these sorts of initiatives that will be instrumental in the successful diffusion and adoption of technical options and behaviorial changes that can make the most important contribution to long-term emissions reduction.
The final section of this paper discusses a pilot project that focuses on one important question raised both by the model and the literature reviewed above, namely, the relationship between bottom-up community energy initiatives and cities as one potential vehicle for the development and dissemination of “top-down” institutional programs. Previous papers that have examined Minnesota-based case studies have sometimes been met with a degree of resistance, with some commentators claiming a “Minnesota effect” within our research agenda. The logic of this position seems to be that since Minnesota’s political culture and geography combine to create conditions ripe for community energy initiatives, our findings are somehow questionable. However, this “Minnesota effect” is precisely our point in this line of inquiry. Minnesota is a clearly-identified example of Elazar’s moralistic political culture, which is characterized by high levels of citizen participation in civic activities ranging from voter turnout to volunteering rates. In 2008, Minnesota led the nation in voter turnout for the seventh straight election cycle, with a voting rate of 78 percent (McDonald 2008). <3>
In terms of volunteering, Minnesota ranked third in the nation (behind Utah and Nebraska) with a volunteer rate of 38 percent, while Minneapolis-St. Paul ranked first among large cities in the United States (Scott 2009). Citizens of Minnesota also ranked above the national average on measures of “participation in a community project” (25 percent) and “involvement in a public discussion of issues” (27 percent) (Boyte and Skelton 2009). As Elazar wrote, “Politics in Minnesota consistently has been an activity open to and dominated by amateurs” (1999, 19). All of these factors combine lead us to the “If you can’t do it here” framing within the title of this paper. If the institutional and community-based sides of energy planning cannot work together among our Minnesota case studies, then we have little reason to expect that local governments and community energy initiatives are working together effectively in other states.
Our research design included a telephone survey with city administrators from ten Minnesota communities working toward meeting and exceeding the state goals for energy efficiency and global warming emissions reductions, as identified by a recent state legislative report (Minnesota GreenStep Cities, 2009) and supplemented by a list of cities/case studies identified by Clean Energy Resource Teams, a community-based energy initiative (http://www.cleanenergyresourceteams.org/community-projects/case-studies). <4> Contact with the city administrators was initially made through an e-mail from the first two authors, describing the nature of the research project and requesting an interview. The third author, a student researcher, then followed up with the city administrator and conducted the telephone survey. Twelve surveys were conducted between November and December 2009. Two of the twelve surveys were conducted with someone other than a city official, leaving ten surveys to analyze for this initial stage of the research project. These ten cities had quite a range in population, from Minneapolis (372,811) to Mountain Lake (2,000). A copy of the survey instrument and a complete list of cities surveyed so far can be found in the Appendix.
The survey began by inquiring about each city’s goals regarding energy consumption, as well as barriers to those goals. We then sought to determine each city’s efforts to involve community members and/or households in energy efficiency and conservation, and then explored the level of cooperation between each city and community energy initiatives and other community organizations. Due to our small sample at this stage of the research project, we will simply provide a general discussion of our initial findings.
Discussion of Survey Results
Although we asked city officials to identify three of their city’s long-term goals regarding energy consumption, most of the city administrators in our pilot study could not articulate three clear goals. One city official responded, “I don’t know of any specific goals for energy consumption. I’m not sure we have any at all. I don’t think we have come up with a comprehensive plan.” Another responded in a similar fashion, with the following response: “Well, as official goals, no, I don’t know what they would be.” At the other end of the energy consumption goal spectrum, one city manager sent a follow-up e-mail with the following three ‘Climate Change and Renewable Energy Goals’ as approved by the City Council, namely, “reducing municipal operations carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5 percent annually, reducing citywide carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent by 2020 using 2006 as a baseline, and increasing renewable electricity in municipal operations by one megawatt by 2014.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, these very specific goals are part of the “26 sustainability indicators” from the largest city in our sample so far, which helps explain its presence as a clear outlier in terms of its specificity. For most of the cities in this initial sample, long-term goals regarding energy consumption were to be met through small discreet projects, such as composting, working within state mandates, improving the efficiency of public buildings, city-sponsored rain gardens in parking lots, promoting efficient appliances, and lighting retrofit projects. Interestingly, one of the most well-developed responses came from one of the smallest cities in our sample. Although the city planner began her response with “We’re a very small city and we have a small staff here. We don’t have a formalized energy reduction plan and we don’t have a formal department that looks at that,” she noted that their city is able to do “ad-hoc things.” She went on to describe multiple examples of discussions and goals surrounding new public buildings in the city, as a well as a new wind turbine ordinance. <5>
Even such modest efforts must overcome numerous barriers before they can be realized. The most important of these barriers is, not surprisingly, cost, whether defined as “upfront cost,” “initial investment,” “limited financial resources,” or simply “money.” One city official elaborated on this barrier when admitting that he could not think of what his city’s greatest success in trying to reduce energy consumption would be: “To be honest with you, I don’t know that we really have one... We have been just, in the last two years, trying to survive... With local government aid cuts, we’ve lost upwards of $2 million from a $15 million [budget]. That’s huge. We’re just trying to get by right now and haven’t been able to do extras.”
In a few cases, city officials used language that reinforced the connection between “bottom-up” and “top-down” approaches to community energy. One such official noted that:
“Most of it involves behavior modification, which isn’t particularly easy to do... We need people to take advantage of the programs. They’ve got to do something extra to save energy and that is the difficult part. They might do that for a while, but it probably won’t last.”
Another noted the nexus between commitment on the part of city staff and their ability to constructively engage with residents:
“Resources and time. You know, I think that we are lucky here in that it is a priority of the city... I really think that we are putting these programs in place that can accomplish these goals. But it also deals with social networking and cooperation.”
Both of these responses implicitly acknowledge the principle conclusion derived from the diffusion and innovation and social norms literatures, namely, that if a city wants to reach its energy consumption goals, programs embedded or originating in the community are critical. While local institutions, including cities, counties, school districts, and municipal and cooperative utilities can facilitate the work of such initiatives, they cannot serve as adequate substitutes for them.
When asked about this issue, i.e., the city’s attempts to involve community members and/or households in energy efficiency, conservation, or related efforts, city officials tended to be either unaware of such efforts or lacking in specifics. A few city managers pointed to city-sponsored newsletters as the main vehicle for encouraging energy efficiency or conservation within households. The content of such city newsletters included spotlighting “green” businesses or individuals within the community, as well as energy hints and tips such as how to winterize windows.
One exception to this finding was the largest city in our sample. This city official’s response was both lengthy and specific, and offered many examples of ways that the city works to involve the community. Significantly, her response also incorporated the language of the innovation and diffusion and social norms literatures. She described the city’s climate change micro-grant program in this way:
“These are very small grants, from $500 to $10,000. We give them to neighborhood groups, places of worship, non-profits, all sorts of organizations. All we do is go out there and promote the energy challenge, you know, do something now. It’s all social marketing based, so it’s not the government telling you what to do, it’s your peers.”
The remainder of the survey questions tended to run together, as most city officials did not have a great deal to report in terms of their city’s working relationship with organizations and community-based initiatives. Although a few city officials did not know of any groups working to reduce energy use in their city, including one city manager who clearly stated that “almost all of that is driven from our office,” many could name at least one community organization. In most of those cases, however, there was not a great deal of clarity regarding how these groups and the city might work together. If they addressed this issue at all, most city officials spoke in terms of open lines of communication and general support. Once again, however, the largest city in our sample tells a different story. After providing an exhaustive list of citizen committees and neighborhood groups and how they work with the city, she went on to discuss future possibilities for such collaboration:
“We have been doing some really interesting work with the chamber, putting on green forums, green jobs, green peer-to-peer businesses. I think that we have got a lot of neighborhood business groups that we are reaching out to better. I think that where it comes to ESL people, it makes it difficult. We could definitely do more with that group, working through barriers. There are groups that don’t have energy conservation as their first priority, such as churches, but when we approach them we see that as a way of taking care of God’s creation. That way we can expand our universe a bit more.”
Conclusion: Expanding the Universe
The survey of city officials reported in this paper makes it clear that “community energy” is generally understood and/or framed as modest and piecemeal institutional efforts, such as replacing incandescent lightbulbs in city hall or in city-owned stoplights with LEDs, lowering the thermostat by a few degrees, or purchasing more fuel-efficient city vehicles. Such actions, while perhaps important as symbolic gestures, will contribute little in the way of emissions reductions.
If cities and other local institutions are to play a meaningful role in the climate stabilization process they must instead become vehicles through which citizens can become actively engaged in determining the contours of their energy system. As shown in our reviews of both the diffusion of innovation and social norms literatures, programs based on peer-to-peer and neighbor-to-neighbor relations provide the most effective way to create the behavioral change required under any reasonable emissions reduction program. City officials would therefore be well-advised to follow the lead of some of their peers who see the potential in fully utilizing social networking and the social marketing of innovative ideas and practices.
So long as cities continue to treat their residents as atomistic actors, unconnected to their neighbors, friends, and peers, community energy will remain a largely untapped resource for change. City-sponsored newsletters attesting to a few modest steps taken at or by “city hall” might well provide some useful information to residents concerned about how the city is spending their tax dollars. And home energy reports accompanying once-a-month utility bills no doubt provide homeowners with a positive incentive for reducing energy consumption. Neither, however, harnesses the power of the actual “community” within community energy. As we continue to study this relationship, we expect to find that a strong and effective partnership between local institutions and community organizations leads not only to a more engaged citizenry and higher levels of social capital, but also to significant, long-term and sustainable emissions reductions.
<4> Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) is a collaborative involving the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships program, Rural Minnesota Energy Task Force, the Metro County Energy Task Force, and the Minnesota Project, a nongovernmental organization that works on agricultural issues. CERTs teams have been created for six regions in the state, with each team bringing together people from various cities and counties, farmers and other landowners, industry, utilities, colleges, universities, and local governments. The outcome of the project is a strategic vision and a renewable energy and conservation plan for each region, reflecting a mix of energy sources, including biomass, wind, solar, and hydrogen. The plan is intended to lay the groundwork for funding and implementing renewable energy projects that meet regional needs.
<5> When we add more cases to our research project, we will be better able to analyze the correlation between city size and long-term goals regarding energy consumption. At this stage of our analysis, some cities lack clear goals, some cities have very specific goals, and some are able to make progress in spite of not having clear, formalized goals.
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