Excerpt from Chapter One of Freeing Energy:
In Search of Energy Freedom

(starting from Page 8 of the first chapter: what is this book about?)

This book is about local energy. It is about individuals, communities, and local businesses generating their own energy. It is about choice and fair markets. It is about unleashing innovation in our outdated electric grid. It is about all of us finally taking control of one of the most essential parts of our lives—energy.

Local energy can take many forms. Microgrids, which typically power a building, are a particularly visible and advanced incarnation of local energy. Mini-grids, their larger cousins, can power multiple buildings or homes at once. These systems are popping up on campuses, in neighborhoods, on islands and military outposts, and in public safety buildings. They are even powering entire towns.

Local energy encompasses traditional rooftop solar, both on homes and buildings. When a battery is included, these are often referred to as solar+battery. Local energy systems with batteries or backup generators are extremely reliable. When the grid goes down, these systems can operate autonomously. This is called islanding, which ensures uninterrupted power to homes and buildings.

For people who cannot access their roofs, or are unable to finance a full system, local energy includes shared solar projects called community solar. A particularly impactful form of local energy is the small solar and battery systems that are providing the first electricity to families in rural Africa and India.

Most of us will still rely on traditional grids for years to come, but that does not make local energy less revolutionary. It is already reinventing the electricity industry, offering choice, innovation, and reliability after a century of strict control from electric monopolies. Local energy may not be a panacea, but it is most definitely the future of energy and, as I will explain throughout book, it will improve billions of lives and create hundreds of billions of dollars in opportunities.

The first three chapters of the book dive deeply into the nature of local energy, explaining how it works and why it is urgently needed. Chapter 4, “From Fuels to Technologies,” Chapter 5, “Hidden Patterns of Innovation,” and Chapter 6, “Billion Dollar Disruptions,” cover the technologies, business models, and huge opportunities embodied in the local energy revolution. The seventh and eighth chapters, “Utilities vs the Future” and “The Battle for Public Opinion,” explain the ways incumbent electric utilities are erecting obstacles to slow or stop the adoption of local energy. These can slow progress but will ultimately fail. The final two chapters, “Unlocking Our Power” and “Powered by Innovators,” reveal how innovators can overcome these hurdles to embrace local energy as individuals, communities, investors, and startups.

As I put this book together, I made the tough decision to limit the discussion of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, factors that many attribute to the increasing frequency and magnitude of destructive weather events like Hurricane Maria. These are urgent issues, but they are also well covered. By my count there are more than 500 books already focused primarily on this topic. Climate change is a divisive topic in many communities, and that controversy risks distracting from the core point of this book: clean, local energy systems like solar+battery are becoming a cheaper source of electricity than our centralized fossil-fuel powered grid, regardless of subsidies.

This book is about the practical business side of clean energy and the enormous opportunities for innovators. It offers a guide for accelerating the transition to clean energy by embracing technology and putting customers first. Rather than another top-down, prescriptive policy-first approach, I offer you a faster, more personal path to a clean energy future. The plan is simple: unleash and tap into the incredible talents and energies of innovators. This requires tens of thousands of entrepreneurs, policymakers, and investors from across the world to join the movement. It also requires hundreds of thousands of everyday innovators—people putting solar on their roofs, opting into community solar programs, buying electric vehicles, or just sharing what they have learned with elected officials and community leaders. It is for these people that I decided to write this book.

If you would like to read more, you can purchase Freeing Energy: How Innovators Are Using Local-scale Solar and Batteries to Disrupt the Global Energy Industry from the Outside In at Amazon or anywhere else books are sold in paperback, hardcover, Kindle, eBook, and audio book formats.