WHAT IS COMMUNITY BENEFITS PLANNING?[edit | edit source]

U.S. Department of Energy explains:

Community Benefits Plans are based on a set of four core policy priorities: investing in America's workforce; engaging communities and labor; advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility; and implementing Justice 40. These key principles, when incorporated comprehensively into project proposals and executed upon, will help ensure broadly shared prosperity in the clean energy transition.[1]

U.S. Federal agencies call for community benefits planning to be incorporated into hundreds of programs that fund infrastructure improvements, to ensure that local projects will produce and deliver benefits to host communities. Applicatopms for the federal 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law (BIL)[2] and the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)[3] are directed to include community benefits plans. The intent is for all project partners to participate in the plan development, which should include efforts to welcome input that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI).[4] The U.S. Department of Energy has provided an environmental justice scorecard[5] and a template for state agency applicants to provide details about their community benefits planning processes.[6] These efforts are part of the federal Justice40 Initiative, which calls for at least 40 percent of all federal infrastructure spending to help support communities that qualify under any of eight different criteria.[7]

WHAT ARE COMMUNITY BENEFITS AGREEMENTS?[edit | edit source]

U.S. Department of Energy defines Community Benefit(s) Agreement (CBA) as a legally-binding document that defines multiple aspects of the relationships between a business or project developer and one or more units of local government. Please see: Community Benefits Agreements

WHAT ARE COMMUNITY BENEFITS POLICIES?[edit | edit source]

Some communities adopt policies that apply to community benefits agreements. This allows the community to publicly state its intentions and the many types of community benefits it expects to incorporate into development projects. For example, these cities have adopted policies:

TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES FOR ENABLING AND FACILITATING PUBLIC PARTICIPATION AND INPUT IN COMMUNITY BENEFITS DECISION-MAKING[edit | edit source]

Deliberative Polling[edit | edit source]

Deliberative polling provides participants with extensive objective education about technology options so that participants can make determinations about preferences for which technology options to deploy and can reveal to community representatives their preferences for siting and zoning of selected options. This method is needed because community planning participants might not understand the available technological options and might not understand the urgency for action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is especially true for participants who represent previously neglected or disadvantaged residents. Payments needed to ensure participation. Plus child-care, convenience, etc. for participants. Deliberative polling has been used successfully in multiple states with marked successes in siting wind turbines.

Key references describing deliberative polling techniques for distributed energy include:

Community exploration and mapping practices[edit | edit source]

the process of mapping existing assets and in determining options for siting new distributed technologies for food, energy, and water systems. The process is poised to use the Energy Zones Mapping Tool developed by the U.S. Department of Energy Laboratory Consortium and housed at Argonne National Laboratory. This tool is free to use. It includes roughly 300 data layers that can help communities in considering all kinds of existing and new FEW technologies, including a full suite of renewable and low- or zero-emissions technologies. Smaller and remote communities, in particular, might not otherwise have access to GIS tools for exploring how new technologies might best integrate with existing land uses and meet community concerns. Key references describing community participation in mapping techniques for distributed energy include: <list here of the top few published reports>.

Economic and employment input-output modeling, using REMI and/or IMPLAN[edit | edit source]

The best available tools for modeling the economic and employment effects associated with changes in community resources are computerized input-output models from REMI and IMPLAN. Either or both of these models can be used to understand both existing and likely future community imports and exports, based on models of industry sectors and the direct, indirect, and induced community expenditures associated with different developments.

A persistent challenge with public utility planning today is policy makers’ general inability to reliably predict the likely economic outcomes associated with proposed utility infrastructure projects, before the expenditures commence. Planners and policy makers struggle to select the best available infrastructure projects for their communities and too often resort to using outmoded rules of thumb and potentially faulty assumptions about the economic benefits associated with different technology choices. As a result, many utility companies are continuing to rely on traditional 20th century resources, despite a growing body of research and analysis pointing toward multiple incremental benefits associated with low- or zero-GHG emitting resources, distributed energy resources (DER) and renewable energy (RE).

Previously, the economic and employment benefits of projects to communities have not been adequately elucidated. That means reliable measures of community improvements have often been neglected, such as per capita economic growth, new job creation and existing job retention, and other indirect and induced local economic impacts. Policy makers and decision makers need to evaluate the full life-cycle costs and benefits associated with public utility infrastructure technology choices.

This project will compare the economic and employment impacts resulting from implementing disparate public utility infrastructure resources. In particular, modeling techniques will be expanded to include the economic and employment effects on both: (1) host communities; and (2) the utility companies, themselves, and the net effects within their own service territories.

Research questions to be answered by improved modeling include:

  • What economic development and local employment impacts derive from expenditures on different public utility infrastructures?
  • How can modelers and planners account for all of the important changes in local economies as traditional economic and employment impacts are reduced in certain sectors and replaced by others? For example, what happens when traditional fossil fuel production and conversion facilities are retired, to be replaced by new renewable resource facilities?
  • Are the beneficial feedback loops from projects sufficient to increase utility company support for new, emissions-reducing infrastructure decisions?
  • How might future business models for regulated utility companies be influenced by the provision of more complete and accurate data about the economic and employment effects from infrastructure decisions?  

REFERENCES[edit | edit source]

Incorporating Proven and Promising Distributed, Integrated Food, Energy, and Water Technologies into Pre-Existing Design Guides[edit | edit source]

As work proceeds on community benefits assessment and planning, best practices can be documented by augmenting publicly accessible community design frameworks and guides. Successes can be shared in the form of reports and case studies, highlighting the ways that additional communities can learn from and replicate successes.

For example:

  • The Architecture 2030 Design Palette provides assistance for communities that are participating in the American Institute of Architecture’s 2030 Challenge. The Architecture 2030 Challenge was formally adopted by the American Institute of Architects in 2006. Architecture 2030’s mission is to rapidly transform the built environment from being a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions to becoming a central solution to the climate crisis. See https://architecture2030.org/ . The objective for 2030 districts is to reduce all fossil fuel and water use by at least 50% by 2030. See https://architecture2030.org/2030-districts/ and https://2030districts.org/. The 2030 Design Palette for regions, cities or towns, districts, sites, and individual buildings invites open-source contributions. See: http://www.2030palette.org/.
  • Similarly, the Conservation Economy Pattern Language (also known as Reliable Prosperity), initially developed by the EcoTrust in the Pacific Northwest, attempts to document the principles and practices that can lead to thriving, inclusive, and equitable communities. Ecotrust, Reliable Prosperity [Web page, from Internet Archive, retrieved May 2023], https://web.archive.org/web/20161022163623/http://www.reliableprosperity.net/. See also: ConservationEconomy.net.
  • The global zero emissions research and initiatives (ZERI) network works on problem-solving that is intended to be transformative, comprehensive, sustainable, and continuously evolving. Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives, What is ZERI? [Web page, retrieved May 2023], http://zeri.org/what-is-zeri.html.
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Authors Tom Stanton
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Language English (en)
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Created May 25, 2023 by Tom Stanton
Modified July 12, 2024 by Tom Stanton
  1. U.S. Department of Energy, Clean Energy Infrastructure, About Community Benefits Plans [Web page, retrieved June 2023], https://www.energy.gov/infrastructure/about-community-benefits-plans
  2. White House, President Joe Biden, (no date), Investing in America [Web page, retrieved June 2023], https://www.whitehouse.gov/build/
  3. White House, (no date), Inflation Reduction Act Guidebook [Web page, retrieved June 2023], https://www.whitehouse.gov/cleanenergy/inflation-reduction-act-guidebook/
  4. See: National Governors Association, 2023, State Approaches to Equitable Distributed Energy Resource Deployment, avaiiable at: https://www.nga.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/NGA-Equitable-DER-Deployment_Mar2023.pdf; and, White House, 2021, Executive Order [No. 14035] on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce [Web page, retrieved June 2023], https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/06/25/executive-order-on-diversity-equity-inclusion-and-accessibility-in-the-federal-workforce/
  5. U.S. Department of Energy, (no date), Environmental Justice Scorecard [Web page, retrieved June 2023], https://ejscorecard.geoplatform.gov/scorecard/department-of-energy/
  6. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) and Community Benefits (CB) Plan Template. Available at: https://www.energy.gov/sites/default/files/2022-10/DEI-Template-SERC-CSPP.docx
  7. White House, (no date), Justice40 -- A whole-of-government initiative [Web page, retrieved June 2023], https://www.whitehouse.gov/environmentaljustice/justice40/
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