Paul Fenn

Bio

Paul Fenn co-authored the nation's landmark 1995 municipal aggregation legislation in Massachusetts, and authored California's 2002 Community Choice (CCA) law, Assembly Bill 117, allowing municipalities to choose alternative electricity providers for their communities. Since then, Fenn and has played a leading role in the growth, and implementation of CCA across the U.S., as well as its development into a more robust program of localization called "CCA 2.0." Fenn wrote San Francisco's 2001 "Solar Bond" authority Proposition H- the nation's first "green bond." The Founder and President of Local Power Inc., Fenn is the company's technical lead on CCA-related program design and engineering, an author and strategist of numerous laws and policy campaigns, and also a published author of numerous essays and books on political theory, history, and energy, most recently Enlightenment in an Age of Destruction(Palgrave, 2018) co-authored with NYU philosopher Eduardo Subirats and GWU historian Christopher Britt, which "provides an alternative to current resistance theory in arguing for new modes of intellectual engagement in politics in an age of crisis, and contextualizes the practice of critical theory within contemporary political discussions on topics such as climate change, nuclear proliferation, and war."


Energy Work

Sponsored by former state Assemblywoman Carole Migden (D-San Francisco), the Community Choice law has resulted a major migration of California communities to CCA, including virtually all of the San Francisco Bay Area, with 25% of utility customers served by CCAs as of 2017 and 85% now forecasted to be served by CCAs in the next few years.

Fenn's work has received considerable press attention, including features in Bloomberg Businessweek and Fast Company (by Pulitzer-nominee Anya Kamenetz), as well as quotations in over a hundred newspaper articles, includingThe Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and The Nation. A Truthout article featured the political showdown around Local Power's pathbreaking "CCA 2.0 In-City Buildout" program design for San Francisco. Fenn was also featured in his Alma mater's magazine, and has had cover stories in local newspapers like the Marin Independent Journal, the Pacifc Sun and the San Francisco Weekly, as well as energy industry journals like Renewable Energy World and CleanTech.Com.

Background & Expansion

Fenn co-authored the nation's original "Community Choice" law, Senate 447, in 1994, while serving as Director of the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Energy under the chairmanship of Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), who sponsored the legislation. Fenn helped Ohio and New Jersey and New York in the drafting of their (1999, 2003, 2015) Community Choice laws/regulations, and has advised state, federal, and British policy and educational bodies on localization as a more effective Climate Action strategy. Today, 1300 cities have become CCAs across the U.S., serving about 5% of the U.S. population (mostly based on Illinois, Ohio, and Massachusetts), and this number is expected to jump significantly as CCAs come online in California and New York. CCA legislation is being considered in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Virginia, Oregon, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland.

Sponsored by San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano, the Solar Bond charter amendment, Proposition H, was placed on San Francisco's 2001 ballot; Fenn and wife/partner Julia Peters ran the citywide Campaign for Solar Neighborhoods, and the measure won voter approval as a City Charter amendment, creating a permanent and unlimited revenue bond authority to finance renewables and energy conservation on homes, businesses and government facilities. Solar Bonds became a critical component of Local Power's unfolding business model, "CCA 2.0," by offering homes and businesses financing for solar and other technologies, and paying back the bonds based on program revenues. The Solar Bonds had as profound an influence on the solar industry as CCA did on the retail power industry; PACE financing and other spin-off bonding authorities, known today as "green bonds," followed adoption of Fenn's H Bonds since 2001, today fueling the vast majority of growth in the global solar industry. Led by Fenn, Local Power also brought other people's important ideas to California, such as "Community Solar" in 2005, both helping Sacramento Municipal Utility District define its program to finance offsite solar photovoltaics on commercial buildings and share ownership benefits with customers, and integrating Community Solar components into Local Power's CCA program designs. Fenn's more recent CCA 2.0 work has included program designs to create local jobs and business opportunities for local contractors.

Implementation of CCA 2.0

Fenn began developing a new model of CCA known as CCA 2.0 starting in 2000. Integrating the aggregation and financing authorities to deliver services focused on reducing grid demand and creating customer equity (rather than merely greening supply), Fenn wrote San Francisco's May 11 2004 CCA Ordinance, which combined the authorities to create a revolutionary new financing mechanism for renewable energy and demand-side technologies. The ordinance encapsulated the CCA 2.0 concept that subsequently spread across California and the nation, by enabling an unprecedented scale of investment in green power without requiring rate increases, taxes or government spending: self-funding green public works project.

In 2004-5 Fenn played a major role helping the California Public Utilities Commission write regulations for the Community Choice law. During this time he was also primary author of San Francisco's CCA Program Design, Draft Implementation Plan and H Bond Action Plan adopted in 2007 (Ordinance 447-07, Mirkarimi/Ammiano/Daly, 2007). Fenn's company, San Francisco-based Local Power Inc., was subsequently retained by City departments through a competitive bidding processes in 2008 and served as a principal consultant to the San Francisco Local Agency Formation Commission and also the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, preparing a CCA Program Report and CCA Lessons Learned Report as preparation for helping draft the City and County of San Francisco's CleanPowerSF CCA Request for Proposals, issued in 2009. Recognizing a lack of capacity in the market to integrate all the pieces required for CCA 2.0, Fenn raised investment and formed a special entity to organize a bidding group among a dozen green power companies and technologies. Focusing Local Power's work more and more on actual implementation of green public works that Local Power calls "Climate Works," Mr. Fenn's LLC, Local Power Works, submitted a proposal to the Marin Energy Authority's Marin Clean Energy CCA Request for Proposals in 2009. Local Power's bid proposed to physically implement a 76% relocalization of the entire Marin community's power supply over a three- to five-year period. Local Power Works designed and submitted a "full requirements" bid with a 4 year transition to a 76% local renewable portfolio infrastructure. Marin declined the bid, but doing the work was "transformative" for Local Power, according to Fenn, because of the need to prove the math commercially and negoitiate every detail with contractors. "It took the level of our work from the abstract to the real. Local Power's portfolio was not just a model," says Fenn: "We negotiated with a dozen partners to get the new capacity online year to year while providing power at rates that meet-or-beat the rates being charged by PG&E. That is the Local Power formula whereover we work: we are looking for the mayor or empowered local official who wants a 50% plus physical conversions of the community's power supply - and Local Power intends to deliver this conversion without any increase in power rates." Local Power emphasizes this "utility bypass" approach to green power. "The idea is major physical energy change for any region, without social pain, in a five year period - that is what we offer local governments." Since that time Fenn has also advised CCA suppliers on how to change their business models to offer CCA 2.0 services that include development of Distributed Energy Resources.

Research and Development

Mr. Fenn's work has two sides: the very theoretical on one side, the very technical on the other. Technical work has included a major California Energy Commission project called "Renewable Energy Secure Communities," partnering with the Sonoma Water Agency to further refine enegy portfolio models for a CCA to implement Sonoma County's "Climate Action Plan." The Califonia Energy Commission funded Local Power to model a 67% renewable localization of the Sonoma community's regional power supply over a five year period - and provide power at the same price as PG&E. Having won the right for Community Choice Aggregators to receive PG&E's meter data, Sonoma County retained Local Power to retain and analyze the PG&E meter data to refine its Climate Action Plan Energy Element rollout schedule. Fenn partnered with Los Alamos Laboratory to combine forces with its CLERE carbon simulation sofware, integrating national transmission system data with Local Power's detailed local data to create an optimized transition model from the grid to local renewables. To analyze the 250,000 meter, three-year sample of monthly and time-of-use meters, Local Power Inc. formed a group of geniuses as a database and GIS mapping group under Fenn's manageent, including WAIS (an original search engine) co-inventor Art Medlar, carbon expert David Erickson and long-time LPI Research Director Robert Freehling.

In 2013, the City of San Francisco retained Local Powers' group under an engineering services contract to design an ambitious $1B "In-City Buildout" of distributed generation and energy efficiency throughout the city. The work, which Fenn considers his "masterpiece," was completed in early 2014.

In 2014, Fenn drafted "CCA 2.0" legislation for New York State, after which Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order to create CCA as a platform for the municipal development of Distributed Energy Resources. Fenn advised state regulators on how to make New York's state rules more friendly to energy localization, and in 2016 was retained by the New York Energy Research and Development Authority to work on a "CCA toolkit." In 2017 Fenn was a member of the New Work CCA Working Group.


Politics & Writings

Fenn emphasizes that his company's "revolutionary" approach to energy "is Not a Theory" (the name of Fenn's first book) since not one- but many successes have followed, delivering much higher renewable power levels at rates below conventional power - from one serving 850,000 people in Northeast Ohio to another in Marin County California, both providing 50% renewable power cheaper than brown power from utilities. Today, Mr. Fenn is focused on working with mayors, city councilmembers and other empowered, determined local and regional government leaders to "actually implement" the solution to global climate change, locally.

In 2010, Proposition 16 nearly blocked Fenn's efforts in California. In June, voters rejected a ballot constitutional amendment drafted and funded by PG&E that would have imposed a 2/3 voter approval requirement on every California city before it could undertake any actions to investigate, pursue or implement CCA - such as Marin Energy Authority, CleanPowerSF, or an exploratory project by Sonoma County funded by the California Energy Commission, "Sonoma Renewable Energy Secure Communities." Fenn's Local Power Inc. formed the official opposition PAC to Prop 16 (noprop16.org), which was joined by city governments and municipal utilities throughout California, consumer groups like The Utility Reform Network (TURN) and former California Energy Commissioner John Geesman, both of whom also ran the campaign with Fenn, as well as the Sierra Club and many other public advocacy groups. Fenn then helped Bay Area CCA leaders form a parallel grassroots field campaign , which focused on organizing voters in the Bay Area. Though PG&E spent over $50 Million in advertising Prop 16, and the No campaign raised only $130,000, PG&E was defeated by the same number of votes - 130,000 votes - in June, 2010. San Francisco political organizer Bruce Wolfe, who managed the Northern California Field campaign, credited Fenn with "the crown" for the successful defeat of PG&E's initiative at the Official No on 16 Campaign's subsequent victory party in July. Fenn's powergrab.info website, created to jump start the "No on 16" campaign and focus the media message on PG&E's at tack on CCA. The San Francisco Bay Guardian called the defeat of Prop 16 "one of the great progressive victories in California history."

On the political side, apart from organizing the official opposition campaign to Pacific Gas & Electric's (PG&E's) Proposition 16, a proposed state constitutional amendment placed on California's June 8 2010 ballot with sole funding by PG&E, Fenn and his wife Julia Peters organized the H Bond campaign in San Francisco, and before that helped organize the only coalition opposed to California's 1996 electric industry deregulation bill in 1996, and has been involved "opportunistically" in politics since 1992 when he helped coordinate Ralph Nader's 1992 Presidential run for in the New Hampshire Primary. Fenn wrote Jerry Brown's published policy platform for mayor and produced a campaign newspaper for the former Governor's first 1998 Oakland mayoral bid, whose campaign manager was Julia Peters. Fenn also helped draft the City of Oakland's "Strong Mayor" charter amendment, Measure X, in 1998. Fenn is Co-Chair of Sierra Club California's Energy and Climate Committee, has taught several industry seminars such as Law Seminars International, and published a book of essays in 2010, This is Not a Theory. Fenn publishes his writing on several web sites and blogs including his blog, a literary web site called The Local Organon, and has recently had several essays and articles published in print publications in Spain, Mexico and Colombia. In 2014, Fenn completed two chapters to be published two separate upcoming books with Eduardo Subirats and Christopher Britt, Spectacle of Enlightenment (2017) and Enlightenment in an Age of Destruction (2018).

Fenn has published a non-fiction literary zine with a group of friends since 1993. An intellectual historian by training, Fenn continues to write about the energy industry, climate change, and political and economic theory "as a form of participatory history - an effort to write history through a participatory voice rather than a neutral observer, while engaging politics through an historical voice, and transforming economics through an unencumbered re-design of the supply-side energy system into a demand-side capacity network" - what writer Elly Hopper called "reinterpreting the grid". Fenn has written numerous articles about energy and climate change in industry journals like Natural Gas & Electricity.

Life & Education
Born in Oakland, California, Paul Fenn holds a 1992 Master's Degree from University of Chicago, where he was awarded a PhD fellowship in Intellectual History. Before that, Fenn was Dean's Fellow at Manhattan's New School for Social Research in 1989-90 in the Philosophy PhD program, and received a Bachelors Degree from Bates College in 1988 with Highest Honors and Muller Prize for best senior thesis. Mr. Fenn is married to Julia Peters and has two sons in Massachusetts.