Local energy: Aug. 23-24 Energy Fair offers ideas of how to take action

July 2, 2014

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President, Illinois Renewable Energy Association

As advocates of renewable energy and sustainable living, we believe an approach similar to that of the local foods movement can be taken to promote the increased use of locally produced renewable energy. This provides energy security as well as economic advantages, as more money circulates within the community rather than being shipped off to distant investors.

With the economy not producing many well-paying jobs and continued off-shoring of work, it is wise for communities to consider what they can do internally to enhance job opportunities, keep money within the community, and enjoy the security of local food and energy supplies. Increased global competition for diminishing energy resources could lead to disruptions in supplies and price increases. Upgrading the electric grid in the Midwest adds to consumer costs.

People can reduce their vulnerability to global forces by taking local action. This year’s Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair (Aug. 23-24 at Ogle County Fairgrounds in Oregon, Ill.) will feature outstanding presenters with ideas for local action.

When Greensburg, Kan., was devastated by a tornado, citizens of the town got together and developed a plan to rebuild the community with an emphasis on green technology. Buildings are extremely well-insulated, homes have large south-facing windows for solar gain, renewable energy sources are used, and many of the municipal buildings are now LEED-certified.

While tornadoes are sudden, intense forms of destruction, globalization of the economy has continued to have adverse economic consequences for many communities. A common community response to the loss of jobs and economic opportunities is to try to bring in new industries in competition with others trying to do exactly the same thing.

Another path to improving the economic situation within a community is to focus on reducing its vulnerability to global competition. One opportunity lies in consuming locally grown foods, and another is found reducing our dependence on distant energy sources. On the energy front, it begins with energy conservation and efficiency.

A leading voice on locally produced energy is John Farrell from the Institute for Self Reliance in Minnesota, who is involved in an effort to establish the value of solar energy so it is properly priced in the energy marketplace.

An important energy drain in our society is our heavy reliance on auto transportation. Some of us with longer memories and travel experiences are familiar with reliable, diverse forms of transportation. In the past and in other countries, common transportation includes walking, biking and using well-developed public transit. While we still rely on automobiles, electric vehicles can help reduce our reliance on oil if the electricity comes from renewable sources. Several speakers will address auto transportation, including The Rock River Times’ “Mr. Green Car,” Allen Penticoff.

Sustainable living is another important component stressed by the Illinois Renewable Energy Association. Several workshops at the fair will focus on ways of working toward sustainability. Some of these include simple living, gardening, food preparation and preservation, raising chickens and general “urban homesteading.” Living within Earth’s resources while meeting our needs leaves resources available so that future generations can meet theirs.

Major sponsors of the Fair are the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, The Rock River Times and Ogle County Solid Waste Management Department.

From the July 2-8, 2014, issue

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