Developing Legal Structures
While community solar projects are popping up in a few friendly markets around the country, so far no existing model appears to be particularly replicable or scalable for most of the country. That's why we are not only taking inventory of current projects but also designing and implementing new legal, governance, and financial structures for community energy projects.
Existing community energy models often benefit from unique regulatory environments, financing opportunities, wealth of higher income communities, or institutional support that may not be available to most communities. Still, these projects offer valuable experience to learn from and promising elements to be considered, given that they each have had to overcome their own set of challenges.
Building on these examples, we are developing a model that is 1) implementable in a wide variety of contexts, 2) adaptable to the uncertain future of energy regulation, and 3) designed to ensure long-term community control and benefit.
Permanent Community Energy Cooperative
The Permanent Community Energy Cooperative (PCEC) is a legal model and approach for scaling renewable energy development that accelerates an equitable transition to renewables by enabling widespread grassroots crowd-financing of new energy projects designed for long-term community ownership and control.
The Sustainable Economies Law Center is working to research, develop, and incubate a pilot PCEC of climate and next economy workers in the Bay Area -- with the long term goal of developing resources for others to replicate the model. (We're thinking of calling the pilot cooperative "Solar Scouts," like girl scouts for grown-ups! You'd even earn solar scout badges as you create a solar energy project in your community.)
Our PCEC pilot incubation project is organized in two stages: Business Development and Site Development:
- Business Development: research and develop the business plan and legal structure of a pilot PCEC, conduct community engagement and market research to create communications about the model, and initiate a plan to finance the pilot (Completion Goal: Summer 2018)
- Site Development: support the formation of a separate standalone cooperative entity and the construction of its first renewable energy system (Completion Goal: 2018 year-end)
Based on our research of existing models and legal barriers, we've come up with an energy development and ownership concept called the Permanent Community Energy Cooperative (PCEC), a scalable model that gives communities permanent access to and control over their power.
Read more here.
☀ Walk-in legal advice clinics for community groups
☀ Training a new generation of lawyers to provide support to community renewable projects
Future Legal Services:
☀ Providing full legal representation to model organizations
☀ Securities law compliance for renewable financing projects
☀ Worker-ownership of clean energy jobs
☀ Cooperative conversions
☀ Incubating new law centers across the U.S.