Solar Scouts

Permanent Community Energy Cooperative

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The Permanent Community Energy Cooperative (PCEC) is a legal model 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.

We are working to incubate a pilot PCEC with the long term goal of creating resources for others to replicate the model. We're thinking of calling the pilot cooperative "Solar Scouts," like girl scouts for grown-ups. The idea being that you'd earn solar scout badges as you create a solar energy project in your community. 

The model leverages collective finance mechanisms for cooperative entities, so that everyone can drive the switch to renewables. It focuses on tapping into social groups and bonds to combine the otherwise dry, technical nature of project development with the fun and camaraderie of social events. Moreover, the PCEC will drive the creation of good jobs and build the movement for a rapid and just renewables transition.

What might it look like?

Imagine meeting up for fun Solar Socials in the evening, and contributing to building solar by learning about the field and working on tasks like finding a suitable site, exploring potential installers, or researching various questions that come up. As Solar Scouts, you would be supported by the staff of the cooperative who would guide the day-to-day nuts and bolts of getting the project constructed. The staff of the cooperative would be supported by the sales of the electricity. The pilot project would be a small project, like on a house or community building, using existing utility programs for solar. Then, as the cooperative matures, projects could grow in size, diversity, and complexity -- depending on what its members desire! Each project would be led by a small group, who would reach out to their broader community to join for membership shares of up to $1,000 each. Members may get a small return or just treat their contribution like a Solar Savings Account that they know is divested and out of fossil fuels or Wall Street and instead invested in local community-owned energy!

How's this similar to or different from other models?

There are various options to get involved in solar, but as far as we know, there really isn't an option for most people to drive and benefit from community-owned energy. There is Mosaic – which is great, but they stopped doing crowd-financing because of securities laws (which we can address via cooperatives); there is RE-volv – a nonprofit revolving loan fund, which is also seriously great, but its crowd funding is donation-based (so it is not an option for crowd investing); and there are there are a few coops, like Coop Power, and other community energy projects in the US, which honestly are also pretty awesome, but rely on unique regulatory environments. Other projects have sprung up that are hard to replicate because they were based on one-time transactional arrangements with high costs. So we need a model that can work in most states -- for most people. 

What's the timeline for Solar Scouts?

  • Summer 2018 Goal: 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
  • End of 2018 Goal: Support the formation of a separate standalone cooperative entity and the construction of its first renewable energy system

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If you have questions or would like to be involved in the pilot, email Crystal Huang at crystal@thexpollinators.com or Subin DeVar at subin@theselc.org.

For more information see this blog post or watch this cartoon -- and check back soon for answers to more frequently asked questions!

 

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