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Power from the People

How to Organize, Finance, and Launch Local Energy Projects

By Greg Pahl
Foreword by Van Jones

Over 90 percent of US power generation comes from large, centralized, highly polluting, nonrenewable sources of energy. It is delivered through long, brittle transmission lines, and then is squandered through inefficiency and waste. But it doesn't have to be that way. Communities can indeed produce their own local, renewable energy.

Power from the People explores how homeowners, co-ops, nonprofit institutions, governments, and businesses are putting power in the hands of local communities through distributed energy programs and energy-efficiency measures.

Using examples from around the nation - and occasionally from around the world - Greg Pahl explains how to plan, organize, finance, and launch community-scale energy projects that harvest energy from sun, wind, water, and earth. He also explains why community power is a necessary step on the path to energy security and community resilience - particularly as we face peak oil, cope with climate change, and address the need to transition to a more sustainable future.

This book - the second in the Chelsea Green Publishing Company and Post Carbon Institute's Community Resilience Series - also profiles numerous communitywide initiatives that can be replicated elsewhere.


Bookwatch Review-

Greg Pahl, an environmental activist who co-founded ACORN and served as an intelligence officer in the military during the Vietnam War, presents a "community resilience guide" for the local energy movement. He organizes the book into four progressive sections. The first consists of three essays that outline broad trends in energy usage and sourcing around the world, conservation and re-localization, and the need to rethink our relationship to energy. The second turns to household energy use and how to become more efficient or produce your own energy. The third and largest section explores alternative energy sources in different localities where they have been implemented. They include solar, wind, geothermal, and new fuel-sources for combustion. The very last chapter in that section turns to "exceptional community initiatives." Part four is Pahl's "call to action" and advice for preparing for action. A resource guide in the back includes energy programs, community development, and transportation. Community Van Jones provides a forward.

"Energy is at the heart of our 21st century economic-ecological crisis, but most writing on the subject is suffused either with immobilizing anticipation of doom or giddy wishful thinking. Here at last is a genuinely helpful energy book, one that's realistic and practical. If you want to actually do something about our energy future, here is where to start."--Richard Heinberg, senior fellow, Post Carbon Institute; author, The End of Growth

"Talk about down-and-dirty. Or rather, down-and-clean! Here's the actual useful detail on how to do the stuff that really needs doing. Read it and get to work!"--Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

"Greg Pahl's superb guide to community energy and how to unlock its potential is essential reading for anyone interested in the economic future of the place they live. As a Community Resilience Guide it is just that--a powerful guide showing how enhancing your community's resilience is a key form of economic development. And there is nowhere better to start than with rethinking our relationship to energy. You will find yourself waking up at 3 a.m. to scribble down the ideas and actions that this book has inspired. Make sure you keep a pen and paper by the bed."--Rob Hopkins, author of The Transition Companion

"Greg Pahl's Power from the People is an inspirational guide to the burgeoning community-power movement. His case studies of people who are making a difference are often tales of endurance and survival, but also powerful testaments to the human spirit. Bravo to Pahl and Power from the People for explaining how feed-in tariffs have produced a community-power revolution in Europe and how they can do the same here in North America."--Paul Gipe, author of Wind Power, advocate, and renewable energy industry analyst

ForeWord Reviews-
"The movement to source energy at the local level has boomed in recent years. Power from the People is a good guide for entrepreneurs looking to get in on the trend in an environmentally conscious way. Community energy has multiple facets, and this book covers them in a logical way. Part One discusses the various aspects of energy localization, including sections on “Energy and Our Communities” and “Rethinking Energy.” Part Two brings the discussion down to a hyper-local level with “Your Household’s Energy Resilience.” This section expounds on the point that there are several steps to energy efficiency, and the first is energy conservation. The book provides concrete advice for the homeowner seeking to reduce their energy consumption and then offers ways that a homeowner can reduce their dependence on outside power generation. It covers relatively unknown topics such as geoexchange and micro-hydro and also includes tips specifically for urban dwellers. From there, the discussion expands to include the entire community. Part Three addresses the parallels and differences between consumer energy and consumer agriculture. The book details important steps to setting up cooperatives, partnerships, and community investment in the project and expands to discussion of specific types of energy. Part Three also offers specific examples of communities around the country that have successfully relocalized many forms of energy. From the Burlington Cohousing Solor Project in Vermont to liquid biogas initiatives at Quad County Corn Processors in Iowa to geothermal power plants at the Oregon Institute of Technology, Power from the People gives real-life examples of the ways that a community can energize itself. Containing appendices with extensive endnotes, a virtual library of additional resources, and a glossary of common industry terms, this book provides a great starter guide for anyone pursuing a local energy project."

Booklist Reviews-
"Pahl’s alternative energy guidebook, The Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook (2007), urged homeowners to cut their dependence on fossil fuels and looked at communities, such as those in Asheville, North Carolina, and Sweden, where locally produced, renewable energy has already made a significant impact. With its focus on U.S.-based technologies and resources, this follow-up volume offers brass-tacks practical advice on the planning, organizing, and financing angles of implementing alternative power without waiting for big government to pitch in. In 14 impressively detailed and inspiring chapters, Pahl explains why our current reliance on fossil fuels is unsustainable and provides concrete how and where examples of coops and neighborhoods in states from Oregon to Vermont, in which such energy sources as solar, wind, and geothermal are now supplementing and even supplanting conventional power. Along with an extensive guide to grass-roots power associations and online resources, Pahl gives sound advice on how individuals can conserve energy. For any private citizen or community looking to cut the cord from corporate utilities, Pahl’s manual delivers a cornucopia of ideas."


  • Winner - Atlas Awards, 2012 Accomplishments


Greg Pahl

Greg Pahl

Greg Pahl is the author of numerous books on energy and also writes for Mother Earth News and various other publications on biodiesel, wind power, wood heat, solar energy, heat pumps, electric cars, and a wide range of other topics related to living in a post-carbon world.

His books include Power from the People: How to Organize, Finance, and Launch Local Energy Projects (2012, Chelsea Green), Biodiesel: Growing a New Energy Economy (2005, Chelsea Green), Natural Home Heating: The Complete Guide to Renewable Energy Options (2003, Chelsea Green), The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Saving the Environment (2001, Macmillan/Alpha Books), and The Unofficial Guide to Beating Debt (2000, IDG Books).

Pahl has been involved in environmental issues for more than twenty-five years. In the 1970s he lived off the grid in a home in Vermont with a wind turbine atop an 80-foot tower that provided for his electrical needs. He is a founding member of the Vermont Biofuels Association as well as the Acorn Renewable Energy Co-op. Pahl attended the University of Vermont and was a military intelligence officer in the US Army during the Vietnam War.


Greg Pahl on
Greg's Website
Acorn Energy Co-op's Website


Fossil-Fuel Free: Greg Pahl Explains His Wood-Pellet Boiler

Greg Pahl explains his Solar Domestic Hot Water System

Greg Pahl Saves Energy and Money with a Fireplace Insert

Greg Pahl Explores a Sustainable Green Home

How Geothermal Heat Pumps Work

How Geothermal Heat Pumps Work

Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS)

Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS)

AL GORE: Green Energy by 2018 (7/17 Speech)

AL GORE: Green Energy by 2018 (7/17 Speech)

Power from the People

Pages:288 pages
Book Art:Black and white photos
Size: 6 x 9 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781603584098
Pub. Date August 13, 2012
eBook: 9781603584104
Pub. Date August 13, 2012

Available In/Retail Price

Paperback, 288 pages, $19.95

eBook, 288 pages, $19.95