US legal community offers cities aid on solar, renewable transition  

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The non-profit Lawyers for Good Government (L4GG) is rolling out services that offer U.S. municipalities state-level legal road maps and direct legal assistance for transitioning to solar and renewable energy. “It will help cities understand the legal landscape and get into the market,” said Jillian Blanchard, program director for “It’s Up to Us”, L4GG’s climate change program.

Most local municipalities do not have the in-house expertise or resources to transition to renewable energy, but 200 U.S. cities and counties have achieved or have committed to achieving 100% clean energy.

“[For cities] the key is understanding the applicable state laws and understanding what they can do,” Blanchard said. To meet their renewable energy goals, municipalities need to know state energy, municipal and land use laws as well as existing local policies. They also often need guidance on franchise agreements, financing solutions and community choice solar options. “Our research memos offer a state-wide overview,” Blanchard said.

The state-level primers explain how the local utilities are regulated, and they offer municipalities guidance on how to get involved in a utility docket. The research memos can also help cities leverage their position with utilities. “Utilities often need franchise agreements from cities to use city streets, rights of way, etc… In return, cities can ask for clean energy provisions to be included in the franchise agreements to help increase renewable energy availability,” Blanchard explained.

L4GG has launched state reports for New York, Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma and Louisiana. Profiles on Nevada, Virginia, Idaho, Arkansas, South Carolina, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Illinois and Vermont will be released in the coming months. In its Ready for 100 Program, the Sierra Club flagged these 20 states as priority states.  Each of these states have cities that would benefit from additional legal information as they look to switch to renewable energy.

L4GG is also piloting an online legal forum that will let cities and non-governmental organizations reach out to L4GG’s 120,000 legal advocates to get answers to questions about renewable energy goals, targets, policies and utilities. Through the Climate Portal, municipalities will also be able to tap into direct legal assistance on how to increase renewable energy through a variety of methods, including power purchase agreements, she noted.

“Approximately one-third of greenhouse gases in the U.S. come from electricity generation. We want to help U.S. cities shift to renewable energy in the absence of good governance to directly address climate change,” Blanchard said.

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Here are the state profiles.