#HeroesofFreeingEnergy: Chris Riley

“I grew up in a small town in central Utah that is very much a rural coal mining community. My father is a third-generation coal miner. My grandfather was a lifetime coal miner and his grandfather was a lifetime coal miner, all in the West around Wyoming and Utah.

“There are several mines there in the mountains, in town there’s a large coal-fired plant, and the vast majority of the employed community of my town and my county was engaged either in working in the mines, working at the plant, or driving trucks that hauled coal from the mine to the plant. 

“Living through these kinds of cyclical economies as a kid, it gave me a tremendous amount of empathy for these communities, not just coal mining communities but rural communities. The mines would shut down and lay off huge swaths of people, and my friends would move out of town as their fathers went and took a job in another mine somewhere else. Then they would come back five years later when the mine opened again.

“With Guzman Energy, what we try to do is work with every community individually, understand what it is they want to do, what it is they’re optimizing for, and help them realize and do that. First and foremost, it’s continuing to prove that communities can have their cake and eat it too.

“If you can work together and partner, you can do these things in a way that not only is competitive today, but even more competitive in the future.

“Luis from Kit Carson went to two developers in the community who independently were not large enough to do anything of the scale we wanted. Historically, they had competed with one another for what work there was. We convinced them to join forces and work together to provide this benefit to their community. The community quite literally came together.

“The goal here is very much to go with what makes economic sense, and what makes sense for his distribution system. It’s taking this template that we’ve created, and taking all of the lessons that we’ve learned, and empowering other communities to do the same thing.

“They can have cleaner energy. They can have cheaper energy. They can have energy generated within their own community.

“We believe the future is distributed.”

Chris Riley, President and co-Founder of Guzman Energy, is one of the 320 people that author Bill Nussey interviewed for his new book, “Freeing Energy: How innovators are using local-scale solar and batteries to disrupt the global energy industry from the outside in.”

Available today

Learn more about Chris Riley from his Freeing Energy podcast with Bill Nussey.

You can see all the heroes (so far) and their stories here.

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