7
Local Energy Action

Over the past decade, more than 2,000 U.S. communities have taken actions to produce or manage energy and energy services to meet local needs (see, e.g., Center for Renewable Resources, 1980). Our committee was drawn to examine these local energy actions because of our interest in social processes and institutions between the levels of individual decisions and of federal policies and programs. On the basis of our understanding of these processes and institutions, our working assumption was that significant opportunities might exist under present technological and economic conditions for local communities to solve their own energy problems. We also expected that even when the technical and economic environments were favorable, local energy activity might be beset by many serious problems.

Our analyses of other energy issues, presented in preceding chapters, increased our interest. We came to see that local institutions are often in a better position than either the federal government or the market to cope with certain important energy problems: for example, local institutions may be best suited to take the lead in the transition to more efficient energy use (see Chapter 4). Unlike the federal government and energy-related industries, which often have credibility problems, local groups are in a good position to gain the attention and trust of local audiences. Compared with national institutions, local organizations are in close touch with local needs and concerns, are potentially controllable by those who need their assistance, and are in a better position to assess the quality of service available from local energy businesses, such as heating or insulation contractors. At least in principle, local groups could be the most effective institutions for increasing energy efficiency in the interests of energy users



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LOCAL ENERGY ACTION 161 About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, 7 and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution. Local Energy Action Over the past decade, more than 2,000 U.S. communities have taken actions to produce or manage energy and energy services to meet local needs (see, e.g., Center for Renewable Resources, 1980). Our committee was drawn to examine these local energy actions because of our interest in social processes and institutions between the levels of individual decisions and of federal policies and programs. On the basis of our understanding of these processes and institutions, our working assumption was that significant opportunities might exist under present technological and economic conditions for local communities to solve their own energy problems. We also expected that even when the technical and economic environments were favorable, local energy activity might be beset by many serious problems. Our analyses of other energy issues, presented in preceding chapters, increased our interest. We came to see that local institutions are often in a better position than either the federal government or the market to cope with certain important energy problems: for example, local institutions may be best suited to take the lead in the transition to more efficient energy use (see Chapter 4). Unlike the federal government and energy-related industries, which often have credibility problems, local groups are in a good position to gain the attention and trust of local audiences. Compared with national institutions, local organizations are in close touch with local needs and concerns, are potentially controllable by those who need their assistance, and are in a better position to assess the quality of service available from local energy businesses, such as heating or insulation contractors. At least in principle, local groups could be the most effective institutions for increasing energy efficiency in the interests of energy users

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LOCAL ENERGY ACTION 162 About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, and the nation. Local institutions are also in a good position to transmit information to and receive information from the informal social networks that are and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution. so influential with energy users. Local institutions may also be best suited for doing some of the necessary work of planning for and responding to energy emergencies (see Chapter 6). Because emergencies affect different geographic areas in different ways, local authorities will be in the best position to identify and respond to local needs. As we have argued, local institutions should be centrally involved in emergency planning, for unless they are involved in the planning, they will not know how to respond effectively. Furthermore, an understanding of local energy management during stable or normal times may have value for energy emergencies: to the extent that local energy systems can act independently of each other, the society as a whole is less vulnerable to any localized disruption. There are many good reasons for thinking that more local control could, at least in theory, improve energy management both under ordinary conditions and in emergencies. The critical question is whether the potential advantages of local action can be realized in practice. Although local energy management may require different scales of technology, it rarely requires new technologies, so feasibility is mainly a social, political, and organizational question. Unfortunately, local energy management has not been carefully studied by energy analysts, possibly because local management relies heavily on institutions other than the federal government and the market. This chapter examines local energy action as a set of phenomena. We note the existence of sharply differing views of its feasibility under present conditions and the lack of sufficient knowledge to make a reliable judgment. We then offer a partial framework for learning more about the potential for local solutions to energy problems. THE PHENOMENA Since the oil embargo of 1973, an increasing number of local governments and organizations have struggled on a path that they hoped would lead to reducing the demand for fuels and electricity, to expanding the use of alternative methods of producing and delivering energy, and to mitigating the effects of fuel price increases in their areas. We refer to this collection of phenomena as “local energy action;” we define it as collective action at the local level to meet local needs for energy services. Energy services—that is, heating and cooling, mobility, industrial processes, and so forth—can be provided by any combination of conventional fuels, renewable energy resources, and energy-efficient technology. Local energy actions vary widely—in sponsorship, in content, and in the ways they have come about. A few examples indicate their range. In

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LOCAL ENERGY ACTION 163 About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, 1979, representatives from the federal agency, ACTION, approached leaders of the city of Fitchburg, Massachusetts (population, 39,000) with a proposal to and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution. conduct a program of low-cost weatherization of residences in the city. The result was a six-week crash program that used $42,000 in money from two federal agencies and the state energy office, substantial donations of volunteer labor by community members, and in-kind donations of space and materials. About 60 percent of the residents of the city took some energy-conserving action during this period, saving an estimated 14 percent of their energy bills (Fitchburg Office of the Planning Coordinator, 1980; Stanton, 1982). With this evidence of success, ACTION and the Department of Energy began to spread the Fitchburg model around the country. In Fitchburg, an independent agency was created to continue the work, and the city became interested in applying the techniques it had learned to its public buildings.1 In the San Luis Valley of Colorado, low-income Hispanics who have lived there for generations created People’s Alternative Energy Services. The organization works to help people reduce energy costs while building local self- reliance. It runs workshops to teach passive solar techniques to homeowners and produces do-it-yourself texts in English and Spanish on such subjects as passive solar applications for adobe buildings. When it builds passive solar greenhouse additions to houses, the homeowners are required to help with the construction. The group emphasizes self-help, but it has benefited from grants and gifts from outside groups (Stern, Black, and Elworth, 1981). Davis, California is famous among localities around the country for its pioneering energy activities. One of these, enacted after lively debate, is a building code that virtually requires passive solar design in new residences (Brunner, 1980). Builders objected at first, but soon found that with very little extra cost for construction they could build homes that meet cooling and heating needs at considerably lower cost for energy than their standard homes. And the effects of the building code went beyond the energy saved in new buildings. In the first forty-one months after the building code went into effect, electricity demand throughout the city dropped by 15 percent (Dietz and Vine, 1982). In Auburn, New York, the mayor has pursued an aggressive production- oriented energy policy. He has developed and promoted local natural gas deposits and initiated work on local hydroelectric and geothermal projects. The goal of the small city is economic development in an economically declining area of the northeast. Local industries, schools, and hospitals have taken up the search for natural gas and as a result have done much to cut their energy costs (Cose, 1984). The list of examples could go on at great length and with great variety. Energy activities have been undertaken by local governments and by grassroots groups. They have been oriented toward conservation, renewable

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LOCAL ENERGY ACTION 164 About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, energy, and traditional energy production. They have been designed to benefit homeowners, renters, commercial business, farmers, motorists, and municipal and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution. budgets and to improve the general economic climate of an area. Sometimes they have been locally initiated, but sometimes the impetus has come from the outside. Some projects involve expensive technologies, others rely mainly on volunteer labor, and still others are regulatory in nature. Some projects show dramatic results, while others never proceed far enough to produce any net energy benefit. What almost all these efforts have in common, unfortunately, is that they have not been evaluated to measure their effects. HOW MUCH CAN LOCAL ENERGY ACTION ACCOMPLISH? Although thousands of communities have taken action to improve their energy situations, local action has never been a major concern in national energy policy debates. Congress has often expressed support for local energy action, but it has provided much more funding for synthetic fuels development and other national- level efforts than for resources to local groups for their energy activities. And while the Reagan administration’s recent statements on domestic policies have included many positive references to the ability of local institutions to solve problems, the administration has rejected efforts to provide federal resources for local energy action—it took a federal court decision to force release of the resources legally mandated in the Conservation and Solar Energy Bank. Ambivalence also exists in our committee. While there is general sympathy with the idea of popular control of institutions, there is sharp disagreement about whether more local control of energy would actually produce more efficient or flexible energy systems, and there is also disagreement about whether it would be more “popular” than the present system.2 Since the debate cannot be resolved by facts, we present the arguments in capsule form to highlight the points of disagreement. The Case for Optimism About Local Action Local energy action has the potential to reshape the national system of energy supply and use, while simultaneously helping to solve some other national problems. Because many social trends are in the same direction—away from large and distant institutions to solve local problems—there are strong reasons to believe that this potential can eventually be achieved. For example, local energy action makes sense as a way to use regional and local energy resources more efficiently. It can make fuller use of local information and capabilities, including unrealized potentials for increased energy efficiency. A number of recently developed energy technologies,

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LOCAL ENERGY ACTION 165 About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, especially in the areas of renewable energy and conservation, are particularly suited to local application. and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution. Local energy action offers a way to increase local self-reliance and control at a time when American society is questioning the performance and motives of large institutions, both governmental and commercial. Some pressing energy problems may be solved through local self-help, and, at the same time, the effort helps build a community’s ability for problem solving. At the very least, the experience will train a local group of experts in energy planning and management that can help a community make quick and appropriate decisions in an emergency situation. Activity on a local energy project may also increase the general sense of solidarity, cooperation, and trust in a community. This is a frequent outcome when social groups are interdependent on a common set of resources (Sherif, Harvey, White, Hood, and Sherif, 1961; Stern and Kirkpatrick, 1977), and was reported by the Fitchburg Office of the Planning Coordinator (1980). Local action may be the best route to solving some of the problems energy prices have created in many communities: the abandonment of housing stock, the declining competitive position of local business, and increasing costs for municipal services, to name only a few. Energy problems affect different communities in different ways, and neither the federal government nor the market is well organized to meet all the particular needs of individual communities. At the local level, these needs can be most accurately identified, and there can be public debate over ways to meet them. Local energy conservation and production activities are among the possible solutions for the problems the national energy situation has created at the local level. Local energy action can also be a way to produce much-needed innovation in the national energy system. Communities may be motivated by special local conditions to try programs or policies that would seem inappropriate as national policies. Communities can thereby benefit the nation by developing a body of experience that can be shared with other localities when useful and that can be applied to emerging conditions on relatively short notice. A greater number of potentially useful strategies are likely to appear than if the nation relies only on national decisions and policies. The spontaneous adoption in past oil shortages of “odd-even” gasoline rationing—a method of rationing gasoline based on the last numeral of the licence plate number, which began spontaneously in a few states —is an instance of the adoption in many parts of the country of one successful solution. Local energy action is a way to make the national energy system more stable and resilient in the face of rapid changes in world energy conditions. We noted in Chapter 6 that diversity in the national energy supply and distribution system makes it less vulnerable to disruptions in the supply of particular fuels and therefore is a form of emergency prevention. By

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LOCAL ENERGY ACTION 166 About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, promoting diversity, local energy activities can contribute to solving national problems of vulnerability. and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution. Finally, local solutions to energy problems may be easier to achieve than national solutions. At a time when the United States seems unable to sustain decisions about energy policy at the national level, local action offers a chance to weigh the trade-offs among energy, environmental, economic, and other objectives at the scale at which stable consensus or coalition formation is a realistic prospect. Local energy action can link the concerns of local businesses with economic growth and the interest of local community activists in public participation and the needs of the disadvantaged. It can serve as a catalyst for new partnerships at the local level between the public and private sectors, rather than sparking conflict between them. The full potential of local energy action has not yet been reached. This lack is partly due to the experimental nature of the current situation: local energy actions are a new response to new conditions. If the lessons from recent experience with these activities can be spread, the rate of success might dramatically increase in the future. There are problems associated with local energy activities, to be sure. They can lead to conflicts between neighboring localities and they will fail to meet certain needs of society as a whole (Wilbanks, 1983). Local actions that succeed in meeting energy objectives, such as supplying or saving a certain amount of energy, may be less successful in meeting social objectives, such as public participation. And local action will seldom occur in complete independence of outside sources of support. To focus on the limitations of local energy action, however, is to miss the main point: that the potential of local action is indeed substantial, large enough to have a truly significant impact on the national energy future. The real question is not whether, but how to achieve the potential. The Case for Pessimism About Local Action There is no question that if local governments and institutions throughout the country could take effective action on their energy problems, many of the beneficial results claimed could be achieved. But there is little reason to believe that under present economic and political conditions, widespread local success in energy activities is likely. Neither is there much reason to believe that local action would often improve the situation of poor people, as is sometimes claimed, or that consensus would be easier to achieve for local energy policy than it is for national energy policy. Claims of past success for local energy activities have probably been exaggerated. Many programs that are glowingly reported in the planning stages are never heard from again; they are likely to be the failures. In

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LOCAL ENERGY ACTION 167 About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, addition, programs that fail are less likely to acquire the resources to evaluate themselves than programs that succeed, so most evaluations will be of successes. and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution. Furthermore, most reports of the results of programs are prepared by someone with a stake in making the program look good: such reports are probably too quick to interpret change as success and too quick to attribute success to the program rather than to other events. Because careful and impartial evaluation studies of local energy activities are done so infrequently, it is rarely possible to rule out the interpretation that reported successes are simply local manifestations of a slow national trend toward improved energy efficiency. It is also questionable whether activities that succeed under a particular set of local conditions can be easily adapted in a different local area. More than local energy conditions are involved in making an energy program work: even when the energy needs of two communities are almost identical, the political realities may differ so much that what works in one community cannot even get serious consideration in another. To make matters worse, very few local energy activities have gone far without federal financial support, and such support is not now forthcoming. The same can be said for indirect federal support in the form of information, research on problems of concern to communities, and support for the individuals and groups that provide communities with ideas and expertise. There is little reason to believe that the few documented successes among thousands of local energy activities are the first signals of a trend with significant national potential. Examination of the politics of energy gives no reason to believe that what national politics has not been able to accomplish would be easier to accomplish at the local level. The political alignments and difficulties are essentially similar at both levels. For example, the interests of energy producers and energy consumers operate at both levels, and are usually antagonistic. At both local and national levels, there have been attempts to use energy policy for redistribution of economic resources, and at both levels these efforts have met powerful resistance. Nationally, the major conservation programs that have been implemented—tax credits and the Residential Conservation Service—benefit primarily the wealthier consumers, and the limited evidence that is available suggests that local programs have been no more successful than national ones in achieving goals related to social and economic equity. Under present economic conditions, energy needs cannot be met by economic expansion—and this problem is at least as severe at the local level as it is nationally. Declining levels of federal support for local services only intensify the competition for the remaining local resources, and under those conditions the dominant forces in local politics are unlikely to much to newly organized interests. In short, the political problems that have proved so difficult in national energy policy also exist at the local level, and the forces in opposition are

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LOCAL ENERGY ACTION 168 About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, just as strong. Great progress in energy policy at the local level is unlikely until the national political-economic picture changes. and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution. Resolving the Argument The striking fact in the argument about local action is that, despite reports of thousands of local energy activities in the United States over the past several years, we cannot be sure which of the above cases is closer to the truth. The research to date has been insufficient to make such a judgment. The experience and capability exist to learn much, but the will to do the research has been lacking. A discipline of evaluation research that can provide fairly rigorous scientific analysis of social innovations, such as local energy activities, has developed over the past decade. While this discipline has been used to evaluate a variety of social programs, it has only infrequently been used to examine energy activities. It is hardly ever used to examine energy activities that are neither funded nor mandated by government. This inattention to local energy action may be due simply to the recency of the phenomenon, but it may also reflect, in part, the way many analysts think about energy. The usual concerns of energy analysis are technological research, development, and demonstration; evaluation of economic feasibility; and analysis of possible federal policies. Since local action rarely results in new technology and hardly ever proceeds unless the economic feasibility is fairly clear, local action may be uninteresting to many policy analysts. Worse, most energy analysts may implicitly assume that all the nation’s energy opportunities—and its problems—are technical or economic; that once technology is developed and economic analysis is complete, local decision makers will fairly predictably choose to implement whatever is efficient in their contexts. We do not agree with this view. We see local energy action as a difficult social and political undertaking, even when the technical and economic issues are clarified. But we are unable to draw conclusions about the potential for local action because of the scarcity of careful research on outcomes and the almost total absence of studies of the processes by which local groups address their energy problems and by which their efforts proceed, stall, or become transformed. The lack of careful research and evaluation is unfortunate because interest in the topic among the public and among policy makers at local and national levels seems to remain high. Careful research on local energy activity will be the best way for the public and officials, locally and nationally, to learn what potential exists. The next section identifies some issues we believe are likely to be important in the experience of local energy activities, issues that are worthy of careful study. Our judgment is based on existing knowledge about social and political processes at the local level and on the limited knowledge of

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LOCAL ENERGY ACTION 169 About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, local energy actions available from the literature and contacts with practitioners in the field. and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution. ISSUES AFFECTING LOCAL ENERGY ACTION Getting on the Agenda Traditionally, energy is not a concern of local governments or community organizations. Local energy action does not occur unless energy first captures the attention of some organization capable of initiating activity. For this to happen, energy must first be defined as a public issue. One barrier to that definition and attention is the view of energy as a commodity (see Chapter 2). Most people’s experiences with energy are closely tied to their experience as customers of private energy companies. When they have problems related to energy, they are likely to look for redress to the energy producers or to the state and federal institutions that can regulate them, rather than to local government or community groups. Since governments and community groups rarely produce commodities, the commodity view reinforces the belief that local actors have no role to play in developing energy policy. This usually leaves energy in the hands of the private sector institutions that are already making most local energy decisions. Energy activities may get more attention in communities where energy is already a public issue, such as cities with municipally owned utilities. In these communities, however, the shape of past energy actions may determine what occurs next. For example, in the mid-1970s, technical analysts for the municipally owned company, Seattle City Light, projected increases in demand for electricity that would require additional generating capacity by 1990. The utility recommended solving the problem by the usual routine—investing in new power plants. The recommendation would probably have been adopted, but a citizens’ advisory group questioned the demand projections and called in outside consultants to develop another estimate. When these experts projected a lower level of demand, the advisory group recommended, and the public approved, a citywide conservation program that could save money by making the new generating capacity unnecessary (Brunner, 1980). The Seattle example demonstrates that energy activity and inactivity both have their own momentum, but that such momentum can be reversed. Public control may increase the responsiveness of communities to new energy conditions because local political interests have the right to participate in energy decisions, but it does not guarantee that all issues will be debated or that all views will be represented. It seems likely that in the absence of strong proponents of the social necessity view of energy, or of

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LOCAL ENERGY ACTION 170 About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, a community political structure that includes strong representation of consumer interests, energy decisions will tend to be governed by the commodity view and and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution. by technical concerns and will usually be made by experts and their employers in government or business. In recent years, communities without public energy agencies have frequently taken action on energy issues. In Los Angeles and some other communities, an energy shock with strong local effects triggered the action (Acton and Mowill, 1975). In many communities, energy issues got on local agendas because of a change of perception—it was seen as a way of meeting other needs, such as for employment, housing, or environmental protection. For example, weatherization programs have gained local support for various reasons only indirectly related to energy: advocates of low-income groups often see weatherization programs as a way to improve housing stock and provide job training and jobs for the unemployed. They also emphasize advantages for city government: weatherization may save welfare costs over the long run and prevent abandonment of rental housing. These are both benefits for local tax rolls. Homeowners of moderate income also find weatherization assistance attractive because cutting energy costs may ease their other economic problems. In communities suffering economic decline, production of energy from local resources has been attractive. In Susanville, California, when shutdown of a prison and an army depot created a local economic crisis, one response was a local geothermal energy project aimed at creating jobs and attracting business (City Currents, 1982). This discussion suggests four propositions that are worthy of careful examination in light of recent experience: 1. Communities that are routinely involved in local energy action are more likely to undertake new activities than communities that have not accepted energy as an appropriate area of public activity. 2. Where there are local public agencies that address some energy issues, arguments for public action on other energy issues are more likely to be made and may receive more attention than in communities where energy decisions are completely in private hands. 3. One successful local energy action will make it easier to attract community attention to others, and so localities are most likely to get involved in energy by stages: an initial, minor involvement may facilitate further local action by a process analogous to behavioral momentum in individuals (see Chapter 3). 4. The ability of local groups to present energy action as a solution to nonenergy problems may have been significant in getting energy on local agendas where it had not previously been a public issue. Mobilizing Action The success of local energy action depends on mobilizing support by tying energy issues to philosophical views that grip and move people, by relating

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LOCAL ENERGY ACTION 171 About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, energy to concerns of organizations that already have some local following, and by building coalitions.3 and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution. When local groups propose new energy activities, at least five general philosophical outlooks have been presented in support. These “philosophies,” which imply social objectives as well as energy goals, are important because they help define energy activity in terms of values legitimately pursued by local groups, and this gives such groups a reason to become involved. A “conservation” philosophy implies a definition of energy as a resource (see Chapter 2). Its proponents emphasize careful use of scarce resources and advocate moderating the demand for energy. A “community control” philosophy emphasizes decision-making power and how it is distributed. Proponents seek to democratize decision processes in general and decisions about the production and distribution of energy in particular. An “equity” philosophy focuses on energy as a social necessity (see Chapter 2) and stresses the redistribution of energy services to meet minimum needs. A “community development” philosophy is related in part to the previous two: some proponents emphasize revitalization of neighborhoods, using energy action as a way to meet social needs for employment, housing, and so forth; others put their major emphasis on the general benefits to the community of increased economic activity. Finally, an “appropriate technology” philosophy is most explicitly related to the antinuclear and limits-to-growth movements and what have been described as “soft energy path” models (Lovins, 1977). Its proponents support local approaches on the belief that they will lead to energy technologies of a smaller scale, which will be freer of the environmental and social problems of larger-scale energy technologies. Philosophical support for local energy action becomes politically significant only when it is embodied in organizations. Using a community development philosophy, the chamber of commerce in Richmond, Indiana organized the people who provided essential support for the city’s initial energy planning activity (Cose, 1984). This group built a broad base of support by emphasizing the idea that energy planning would benefit the entire city. In San Bernardino, California, the Westside Development Corporation began its energy activities by demanding funds from the city government—on equity grounds—to meet the needs of poor people. The funds were used to train people to produce and install solar energy systems in low-income housing units.4 The history of a local energy proposal will depend on the philosophical basis of the proposed activity and the distribution of its likely costs and benefits. The distinction between distributive and redistributive policies is useful in understanding this point (Lowi, 1964, 1972). Distributive policies have no clear losers, but some clear gainers: a benefit is offered, and potential recipients compete or negotiate to enlarge their shares. A good example is the Community Energy Project, initiated by ACTION. This

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LOCAL ENERGY ACTION 172 About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, project, modeled on the successful project in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, relies heavily on volunteer labor to run local weatherization efforts of short duration and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution. (Community Energy Project, 1981). Each community designs its own program; the programs run for low cost, and they offer widely distributed benefits. In fact, to get general assent to a project, it has sometimes been necessary to make it more distributive: to make sure that services are available to particular broad clienteles, such as homeowners ineligible for federal low-income weatherization assistance or occupants of small commercial buildings. Distributive policies tend to preserve the existing centers of power and they are therefore less likely to generate strongly organized opposition than redistributive policies. Redistributive policies take from some to give to others. They tend to be more politicized because there are losers and because they usually form some identifiable interest group. Changes in utility rate structures are a clear example: a given level of revenue is reorganized so that what is a rate decrease to one group of customers is a rate increase to others. Some of the impetus for local energy action comes from its redistributive potential. Advocates of the equity and community control philosophies favor energy activities because they can redistribute economic benefits or political power to less-advantaged groups in the community. But conflicts arise over redistributive policies when the potential losers anticipate the effects the policies will have on them and when they are sufficiently organized to act as political interest groups. Anticipation and organization are more likely to arise among energy producers and other business interests than among low-income consumers or other diffuse groups of people, because the former are often already organized to protect their economic interests. This analysis suggests several propositions about local energy action that deserve study: 1. Energy actions tied to a community development philosophy and offering some tangible benefits to well-organized local constituencies are most likely to be given serious attention by local political bodies. 2. Energy activities with social-change objectives more often have to operate without the assistance of local government. 3. Proposals that would redistribute resources from powerful business interests to small consumers or to the public sector tend to give way to energy options that are less redistributive and therefore generate less organized opposition. Even after a plan of action is accepted, if a group with essentially redistributive goals decides that the action is not serving its constituents, it is likely to redirect its efforts to some nonenergy issue or use its support as a political bargaining chip rather than as a substantive commitment. In the process, the energy activity changes. 4. Redistributive policies are seriously considered only where the interests of consumers and lower-income people are well organized. Under these conditions, policy processes can be expected to become more participatory and also to create more

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LOCAL ENERGY ACTION 173 About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, conflict. 5. Economic stringency tends to narrow local energy options dramatically, because redistribution is politically difficult and distribution is and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution. limited by resources. Few feasible options may remain: improved management of public buildings and equipment, low-cost and no-cost building weatherization programs, and increased political conflict over redistributional proposals. Obtaining Resources Local energy actions typically require three kinds of resources: money, labor, and expertise. Clearly, different sorts of energy activity need different resources. Some activities, such as district heating or waste-to-energy conversion plants, are capital-intensive and depend heavily on an initial block of funds. Others, such as home weatherization, need a steady supply of labor. Expertise is important because most local energy actions involve technologies whose characteristics are not self-evident to most people, and because the policy options have uncertain costs and benefits. The mixture of resources needed probably also depends on whether the proposed option is new, seldom tried before anywhere; unfamiliar at the local level; or technologically sophisticated. Few local energy action programs have been started without some outside resources. Substantial financial investment has sometimes been essential, but very modest inputs have also proved important—a small grant, interest from a federal agency, or the volunteered time of an outside expert. Such external resources can multiply their effect by attracting the attention and resources of local groups. A federal agency’s offer of funds for weatherization to Fitchburg, Massachusetts attracted the attention and effort of the mayor and city planning department, and those central actors were able to attract local resources in the form of volunteer labor, donated building space, and the like (Fitchburg Office of the Planning Coordinator, 1980). Although outside resources have been helpful, even essential at times, they can also bring problems. Considerable experience with technical assistance since World War II has taught that there are limits to the ability to transfer technology (see, e.g., Sutton, 1968). Local situations vary widely from what is thought to be a typical case, and it is difficult for an expert to get specific enough information to make useful suggestions for unique local circumstances. When a technical expert offers analysis, local groups may want action. When an expert explains how technologies or techniques work, local people may want to know how to use them in the specific locale. As a result, local people may resist expert advice—and their resistance may reflect an accurate appraisal of local realities. Furthermore, if a locality is interested in energy actions as a way to increase self-reliance, accepting technical assistance may be seen as an admission of inadequacy,

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LOCAL ENERGY ACTION 174 About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, which can lead to local resentment of outside experts and suspicion of their motives. and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution. Another problem with outside resources is that they often flow to localities with strong organizational capacities to obtain grants and other assistance rather than to the localities in greatest need; this has been true of a range of federal programs in the past, from community development to water pollution abatement. Communities with strong organizational expertise and resources respond to available programs more frequently and are more successful in their applications (Friedman, 1977). Outside support also constrains what a locality can do, because local groups tend to choose actions that they believe can receive support, or because sources of support set guidelines for action. Local groups sometimes achieve a great deal by drawing on their internal resources. The experience of Fitchburg is typical in this respect, and has been reported in many other localities that have received small grants (typically $5,000) as part of ACTION’S Community Energy Project (1981). Other localities have also drawn heavily on internal resources. For example, the Pembroke Solar Project in Kankakee County, Illinois, has built a program to educate the local public about low-cost ways to meet energy and food needs, and has trained unemployed members of the community using only small grants for passive solar-heating technologies. As outside resources have become even more limited, the project struggles on with smaller self-help projects in an effort to become self-supporting.5 In Richmond, Indiana, energy planning that was done with federal funds has led the city to choose energy options it expects to implement solely with internal sources of support, such as low-cost residential conservation activities, city-funded conservation education seminars, a volunteer program to teach businesses how to save energy, and economic research on the potential for district heating.6 And the experience of success in Fitchburg has led the city government to apply weatherization techniques to its own buildings, and has encouraged a local community service agency, United Neighbors, to conduct workshops on installing solar collectors.7 Despite these hopeful signs, the main effect of decreased federal support for local energy action is likely to be negative. The strain on local budgets will increase and therefore make most new activities unrealistic. Existing programs can also be hurt. If local governments must choose between an existing weatherization program and traditional social services, weatherization may appear less affordable, even though it probably pays for itself many times over in decreased welfare payments, increased tax receipts, and so forth. Because social services are delivered continually and weatherization is not, recipients are more likely to notice a declining level of social services and to organize to prevent it. Social services also have the political support of public employees and their organizations. Furthermore, cutbacks in federal research and information services make it less likely

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LOCAL ENERGY ACTION 175 About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, that localities will have access to the accurate information they need to design new building codes or informational programs. and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution. The above discussion suggests several propositions that should be examined to learn from recent experience: 1. The degree of local energy action depends as much on a community’s ability to mobilize resources—either locally or through grantsmanship, political connections, and so forth—as on the level of demand for change in local energy conditions. 2. A shortage of outside support will tend to prevent local action on expensive or technically sophisticated energy projects, regardless of their potential payoff. 3. Because outside funds allow a range of energy activities to be treated as distributive, a reduction of outside resources may most seriously affect programs aimed at low-income groups. 4. Technical expertise is more likely to be accepted when it comes from within a community; when it comes from outside, it is more likely to generate conflict or to become an object of blame when problems arise. 5. Technical expertise from outside is better accepted and more fully used when it is used to build local expertise rather than simply to offer expert judgment. Maintaining Policies and Programs Like other public actions at the local level, local energy actions are subject to politics. As a result, they can continue to exist in one of two ways. Either they are continually ratified in an open and sometimes exhausting political process, as described in the section above on “Mobilizing Action,” or they become institutionalized—that is, they find a stable place in some organizational structure and are treated as ordinary responsibilities of that organization. Institutionalization is evidenced in permanent staff positions, routinized tasks within an organization, and a place in the budgeting and decision-making processes of an organization. Stable, single-purpose physical structures also help institutionalize the activities that take place in them. A resource recovery program is institutionalized both in the facility that processes the wastes and in the position of plant manager, and is usually located in a stable part of the city government, such as the department of sanitation. When a city government adds an energy coordinator, this tends to institutionalize a concern with energy issues. The stability of this concern varies, however, with the permanence of the position, its place in the organizational structure, and its ties to other, long-standing municipal agencies (see Chapter 5). Institutionalization is important because it maintains the life of a new program with minimal effort. It also facilitates the transmission of skills and knowledge, including political skills and contacts, so that knowledge is not lost when the original staff departs. Institutionalization also implies the development of routines of operation. Such routines make a new unit more efficient in doing its usual tasks, but may also mean the organization

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LOCAL ENERGY ACTION 176 About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, is less likely to take risks or promote change. For local energy groups whose goals entail social change, then, institutionalization has drawbacks. There may be and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution. a tension between “social goals” and “energy goals.” A plausible proposition to examine is that labor-intensive energy actions may be the most difficult to institutionalize. In the present climate of tight resources, this proposition would mean such actions are especially vulnerable to being discontinued because they tend to draw their labor from volunteers, participants in job training programs, and other unstable sources. When energy action organizations are operated by grassroots community groups, they often start with seed money from an outside source and lack a reliable continuing source of operating funds. And when they are the responsibility of local government, they must be debated in every annual budget. Further, if they fail to find a stable home in a local agency, success in these debates requires continual mobilization of public support. Once an energy program is operating, it needs different resources, skills, and political support from those that were necessary to get the program started. Budgetary needs tend to stabilize at some level, and needs for technical and managerial skill may replace needs for political organizing ability. Consequently, local community groups may be poorly suited to manage the programs they have helped bring into existence. Although they may be able to mobilize labor and political support, the need to simultaneously develop skills, raise money, and create institutional stability may prove too much of a bootstrap operation for them to manage (Bowden and Kreinberg, 1981). However, such groups may be valuable and flourish as partners with other groups in jointly managed programs. For local governmental agencies operating energy programs, there are problems of coordination, which emerge most clearly when agencies with different objectives are required to cooperate. For example, when an agency charged with improving the energy efficiency of housing must use the services of trainees in a job training program, the objectives of training and of high-quality work can conflict. This kind of conflict has been a problem for some local energy activities (Stern et al., 1981). In addition, job training programs inherently offer an unstable supply of labor for weatherization efforts (Office of Technology Assessment, 1980). Coordination also tends to be difficult because most bureaucracies offer officials little or no reward for the required behavior (Blumstein et al., 1980). A plausible proposition is that local groups will do best when they have had experience with similar activities in the past. It might be relatively easy for a city agency that had operated heating plants for municipal buildings to manage a new district heating operation. Similarly, a change in the building code may be a fairly routine activity for building inspectors. It may be especially difficult to implement programs that depend for success on communication and trust. A good example is energy audit and

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LOCAL ENERGY ACTION 177 About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, weatherization programs for residences and small commercial buildings (see Chapter 4). For such programs, the local institutions with the resources to initiate and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution. programs—chiefly energy utilities and city governments—often find it difficult to involve their intended clientele. Mistrust of these institutions is common and their typical lines of communication in print and mass media tend not to reach poor, old, and non-English-speaking people.8 Spreading Energy Ideas If local energy action is to become a significant national phenomenon, new ideas must spread from where they began to other localities where they might be useful and they must be adapted effectively in those localities. Research should carefully examine the ways local energy ideas have been spread. Three types of institutions are probably important in spreading ideas for local energy action. First, the mass media transform local events into news stories, thus spreading rudimentary information about new energy ideas and identifying individuals as sources of further information. Media coverage has drawn national attention to such sites of energy innovation as Davis, California; Seattle, Washington; and Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Second, information can also be spread by specialized institutions, such as state energy offices and the energy programs of the National Governors’ Association and the Conference on Alternative State and Local Policies. The same function has been served by the federally funded regional solar energy offices and the National Center for Appropriate Technology, and by such nongovernmental sources as the Center for Renewable Resources, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and a number of regional, appropriate technology organizations. Third, energy information is also spread by various kinds of informal social networks. Extensive research on the diffusion of innovations (e.g., Rogers with Shoemaker, 1971; Leonard-Barton and Rogers, 1981) demonstrates that informal communication with peers is a highly effective medium for spreading ideas— possibly the most effective. This finding seems to hold true with energy ideas (Darley and Beniger, 1981; Leonard-Barton, 1980). Many social networks have probably been involved in spreading energy ideas, including: national and regional associations of city officials, such as mayors, planners, and engineers; professional associations in architecture, engineering, and the building and transportation industries; and other groups. National environmental organizations, poor-people’s organizations, charitable organizations, and the like also spread those energy ideas that may further their organizations’ central goals. Personal contacts in such organizations, as well as informal family, friendship, or occupational networks, are also likely to spread energy ideas. New ideas may also spread

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LOCAL ENERGY ACTION 178 About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, when individuals who have worked on energy issues in national organizations carry ideas to the areas where they live. and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution. Since spreading energy ideas may have little benefit for the communities that generate the ideas, federal involvement is probably crucial for this function. Past federal actions have probably been significant by establishing and maintaining national and regional energy organizations and by supporting the informal networks of personal interaction that are so important to local innovators. Cutbacks in federal funds since 1980 have meant curtailment of programs that kept local groups in communication with each other and that provided them, at little cost, the benefit of each other’s experience. The impact of federal support and its withdrawal on the exchange of energy ideas among communities is worthy of careful study, because local sources are most unlikely to replace a national commitment and because small changes in federal involvement are likely to make a great difference. IMPLICATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Knowledge about the phenomenon of local energy activity is severely limited. Because of this lack, we have not attempted to draw any conclusions, but rather to state some plausible propositions about local energy activities that are worthy of careful study. We cannot overstress, however, that these are propositions for testing and not established generalizations. They are based on analysis, judgment, and broad extrapolation from very limited data. But because local energy action can have major positive effects if it can be achieved on a wide scale, we believe that careful research on the identified issues could provide useful insights for national and local officials and for the public. A simple call for more research is inappropriate, however, because of the nature of the phenomena. We have already noted the great diversity of local energy programs and policies and of the local conditions in which they occur. Because many variables simultaneously influence the way local energy actions emerge and develop, no ordinary program of evaluation research has much hope of isolating and controlling enough variables to reach any definite conclusions, even about a single program. Furthermore, because of the diversity of local conditions, we question how useful any generalizations from research might be to those responsible for making a particular local program work. For the practical purposes of learning from the experiences of other local energy actions, something more than a collection of evaluation studies seems appropriate. A research effort might begin with careful case studies of existing local energy activities—both successes and failures. Such case studies would

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LOCAL ENERGY ACTION 179 About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, have to do much more than simply assess the effects of a program on local energy use. Knowing only that a program succeeded or failed offers little guidance for a and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution. new situation. To learn from the experience, it is necessary to clarify the social processes that facilitated, impeded, or transformed a proposed local energy action. From such research, social scientists and practitioners would be able to develop a qualitative knowledge of the processes involved in local energy action —something like the propositions we suggest, but with more detail and a stronger basis in fact. Such an effort would be a beginning, but it would not be sufficient because local energy activities develop in a context that is constantly changing. Even if a set of generalizations or principles seemed to apply to a local situation at the outset, unforeseen changes in the situation are almost guaranteed. To succeed, a program must be capable of learning from its own experience and the experiences of others. Research results inevitably lag behind such a continuing process. Learning from experience requires more than knowledge about the characteristics of successful and unsuccessful programs. If the goal is to develop adaptive forms of organization, it would be helpful to conduct research on the process by which local energy activities adapt to changing circumstances. In fact, basic research on the general problem of adaptation and learning in organizations might be enlightening. But the development and application of basic research takes time, and local energy activities have immediate needs for knowledge. One way local groups can learn from each other’s experience is by communicating through formal or informal channels. The same communications networks that spread ideas for starting programs may prove useful for spreading ideas about how to solve problems, particularly immediate problems. If national policy is to promote local solutions to energy problems, it would be very helpful to develop ways for localities to learn from each other. This might be done, for example, by creating institutions to share information among communities, by holding conferences, and by making research expertise available to localities so they can carry on continuing assessments of their programs for learning purposes. Though we believe that such techniques would help social programs function better, we suggest them only as experiments: like the local activities themselves, they should be studied as a new social institution so that the society can learn from the experience. We conclude with a reference to the high hopes many observers have for local action as a way to solve national energy problems. In fact, these hopes concern more than energy: because of the difficulties of past federal programs, many observers want to find ways that the society’s response to national needs may be organized collectively at levels below the federal government. Local energy actions provide numerous illustrative examples. It is particularly important at this time to try to learn from the experience

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LOCAL ENERGY ACTION 180 About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, of the thousands of recent local energy efforts. Local energy actions provide knowledge not only about the prospects for local solutions to energy problems, and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution. but also about what happens when communities try to act on the many different philosophical premises that underlie their particular local energy activities: preserving natural resources; increasing local control over essential resources; redistributing political power and social services; developing the community economic base; or promoting technologies based on appropriateness to the size of the community. If viewed this way, the experiences of local energy actions may provide a way to assess the more general potential for solving national problems at the local level. The federal government, private foundations, or other interested parties should sponsor research to evaluate the success or failure of existing local energy activities. Such research should define success and failure broadlybecause of the close ties these activities have to other local issues. Because the impetus for many local energy actions has come from the redistributional possibilities believed to exist in such actions, the research should explicitly examine the distribution of effort and of benefit from energy programs among the major groups in the communities involved. The federal government, private foundations, or other interested parties should sponsor research aimed at understanding the processes by which l ocal energy activities begin, succeed, fail, or become transformed. Sucha research program should look broadly at the antecedents and effects of local energy activities. The results of such research would be useful to local groups and for informing national policy. The federal government, private foundations, or other interested parties should develop and sponsor mechanisms by which localities can learn from each other’s experiences with local energy action. These mechanismsmight include holding conferences, making research expertise available to localities to assess their own activities, and supporting travel and communication among local energy officials. Notes 1. This information comes from D.Streb, United Neighbors of Cleghorn, Fitchburg, Mass., 1982. 2. Local energy actions have been advocated for many reasons, reflecting different views of energy and energy policy. For example, local programs for residential energy conservation have often been advocated as means to meet social needs—to create needed jobs and to provide better housing—as well as for energy services.

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LOCAL ENERGY ACTION 181 About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files. Page breaks are true to the original; line lengths, word breaks, heading styles, and other typesetting-specific formatting, however, cannot be retained, Energy actions are sometimes advocated as means to keep money and jobs in the local community, essentially a strategic view at the local level. They are promoted as supportive of environmental values. And in addition, they are defended as good in themselves because they are believed to and some typographic errors may have been accidentally inserted. Please use the print version of this publication as the authoritative version for attribution. promote democratic control. For the diverse rationales of a sampling of local conservation programs, see Stern, Black, and Elworth (1981). 3. It has been argued that it is easier to form local coalitions on energy issues than on other social issues. This argument seems plausible because energy does not involve the same sorts of basic social division that marked the civil rights movement and the women’s movement in past decades; people who are disadvantaged by energy events do not have daily contact with some clearly definable social group that is not disadvantaged and that might be seen as responsible for their difficulties. Thus, dialogue and coalitions may be more possible across social groups. But the same factors that may make it easier to form coalitions detract from the motivation that may be necessary to mobilize for local action. 4. Information from V.P.Ludlam, Director, Westside Department Corporation, 1981. 5. Information from E.Hagens, Governors State University, Park Forest South, Ill., 1982. 6. Information from J.Pitts, Richmond, Indiana, City Energy Agency, 1982. 7. See note 1 above. 8. For a detailed discussion of these issues, see Stern et al. (1981: Chapter 2).