Blog Post - What You Need to Know About NIMBYism



I am dropping another Blog Post only a week after my last one largely due to my desire to respond to the comments that I received on my last Post about Heat Pump Incentives. But I also have been itching to put out my thoughts on NIMBYism.


So this send-out has three parts. Part One addresses the comments on the last Post. Part Two is the usual few things that caught my eye. Part Three is my Op Ed on NIMBYism.


That makes this Post a little longer than usual, but just read the parts that you think you find interesting.


And if say to yourself after reading a section, “that was interesting” don’t forget to forward this Post to someone else who you think will find interesting.






About My Last Post …


As a writer, it is always nice to find evidence that people are reading what you write – even if that evidence includes complaints.


Some people wrote me to express their strong disagreement with what I wrote about the incentives for Heat Pumps in the Inflation Reduction Act. They expressed strong opposition to making the incentives retroactive and to not require eligibility based on DOE and State Energy Office programs putting the final rules in place to implement the incentives.


One of the first things I did in my career was to work at a State Energy Office and administer a federally prescribed Grant Program for institutional buildings. After that I worked at a large California utility where I designed and ran a zero-interest loan program for consumers that allowed them to undertake energy efficiency actions. In subsequent jobs, I worked on various policy initiatives that included efficiency incentives. When I switched to work on efficiency’s sibling, demand response, I worked to get a tax incentive for smart meters and then federal matching grants for smart grid investments.


I say all that for two reasons. One is I like you as a reader knowing bit more about me so that you know where I might be coming from in my writings. The other is to establish my “cred” when it comes to incentives.


For those of you who got to the end of my Heat Pump Op Ed (and I hope you all do since that is often where my summary message is) you hopefully saw that one of my points was one I bring up a lot – the need for speed. I tried to get across that if agency action is needed to implement an incentive program, it needs to happen fast. For example - in half the time it ever took before. 


My other point was that a challenging situation is created when the IRA incentives have been publicized so much, both in the media and in every remotely related newsletter that organizations put out. It is hard to motivate people to take an action and then tell them to wait. I also don’t think much of the publicity didn’t even mention anything about eligibility coming later.


One person wrote to remind me that there was never ever guarantee that people would get incentives retroactively. Yes - but I don’t think that was in the messaging – or else it was in the fine print.


I agree with my commenters that under normal circumstances there should not be retroactivity for incentives. Those who have seen a reason to act independently of the incentive should not normally be unduly rewarded. I also agree that trying to judge people’s motives in retroactive fashion is very difficult.


But I still maintain the thoughts and message that I was trying to get across. These are not “the usual circumstances”. We need consumers and business to act fast and we need to accelerate any agency action that relates to that. Retroactivity should not be completely ruled out without examining the overall reason why the incentive program was created and the circumstances and timeline are that have led the question to be raised. 




PS – Keep the comments coming……



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Things That Caught My Eye …


Will Hitting Them in the Pocketbook be the Message They Hear?


The Treasury Department has put out a Report on the likely effects of climate change on household finances.


Here are the things they see coming:


-     Reduced earnings and access to employee benefits

-     Damage and destruction to property

-     Increased spending on transportation

-     Higher healthcare costs

-     Higher utility expenditures

-     Difficulty accessing cash

-     Insurance gaps

-     Reduced availability of and access to credit


That may or may not sound like a list of the obvious, but there is specificity in the Report on each of those topics, as well as predictions as to which parts of the country they will be prevalent in.


Is a message about pocketbook issues perhaps a good way to get people to understand that the impacts of human actions leading to climate change will not be free-of-charge?


The Report is here:


But Even if They Get the Message There is This ...


When I get in a conversation with someone about climate change, many if not most immediately say they are recycling. Which puts me in the awkward position of having to tell them that recycling is way down on the list of carbon-reducing things they can do.


Back in August a survey of people asking what things they think are most important. This article matches that up against how those things actually rank in impact.


Sudden Rapid Developments on an Important Front


Court action on climate is an important front where positive developments have been occurring. I previously noted the Montana “Kids” victory and now, though, it was only just filed, we have action of a similar type in California.


But the other big development in California is the enactment of new laws governing climate disclosure by companies. Importantly, the new requirements cover not only Scope 1 & 2 type emissions but also Scope 3, which are often referred to as “upstream and downstream” or “indirect” emissions.


The laws apply only to companies doing business in California…but who doesn’t do business in what is often referred to as the 5th largest economy of the world?


The Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the EU in Brussels are said to also be about to make new announcements on this issue.

More here:







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What You Need to Know About NIMBYs


I should be enjoying a newly remodeled Master Bathroom right now. But more about that in a bit…


As I have alluded to in past Posts, I have been monitoring the development of a couple of solar farms near where I live. But I have also been following stories of NIMBYism from across the country, including places like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico. I have been doing this to try to understand NIMBYism better, both the arguments that are being made and the activities the NIMBYs are undertaking.


Here are my current thoughts as it relates to NIMBYism associated with projects designed to address climate change.


The Kids Aren’t NIMBYs


If you think about it, this is really stating the obvious. Adults (pick your age bracket) have the money, wealth, property, and power. The youth have none of these. What they have is fear, anxiety, and an increasing feeling of helplessness regarding their climate inheritance. And for this or other reasons, they are not participating in the discussions over energy projects or showing at hearings and meetings about those projects.


I will be writing soon about young people and climate change, but in terms of NIMBYism, think of it this way: Older people may look at a field of solar panels and see something ugly. Young people look at that same field of panels and see hope.


NIMBYs are a true dilemma for Local Officials and Farmers


As seems to always be the case, some people find themselves in the middle when it comes to NIMBYism on energy projects. Local town or county officials must deal with the part of their constituency that are NIMBYs while also trying to do right by everyone, especially when projects can provide a windfall of revenue that could be used for education or other areas needing funding.


Another dilemma is faced by the people that find themselves owning farmland or forest that is near a transmission line or substation (which are considered premium spots because they lower the cost of a project). A farmer in such a location might earn a lot of revenue from hosting a renewable project. But other nearby farmers and neighbors don’t get anything.


A couple of examples of this are here and here.


The NIMBYs Are Not Only Abutters


The most obvious candidate to be a NIMBY is an abutter to the site where a project will be located. This doesn’t only mean those who would share a property line with it. It can mean those close in proximity to the project, or those who claim to be proximate to it.


But NIMBYism can go much wider than that. When it comes to solar farms, some people revolt against a project just “being there”. They don’t want to see land taken up by something that they see as destroying the open, rural nature of the area. This is understandable. Most people want to preserve nature, habitats and the general environment and landscapes.


But some NIMBYs go so far as being against a project even if the location and construction results in it being difficult to see.


Local NIMBYs Are Getting Supported by a National Organization


When it comes to energy projects, don’t assume that it is just a local reaction to something. As the NPR piece below describes, there is national coordination and support, including the spread of misinformation, being provided across the country by a group called Citizens for Responsible Solar. The group was active in 10 states as of earlier this year.


If you follow no other link in this Blog Post, you ought to check out this one.


I have approached several organizations, foundations, and renewable energy companies on the idea of creating some national support for countering NIMBYs, but so far, I can’t report getting any traction.

There Are NIMBYs When It Comes to Non-Energy Climate Projects


I suspect that solar farms are what comes to mind when you think of NIMBYs. But projects focused on resilience can also attract that kind of opposition. Here is an example of that related to building a seawall on the coast of New Jersey.


Project Developers Are Often Their Own Worst Enemy


There was a point in my career where I worked for the company that developed the first Independent Power Project (IPP) and the Iroquois pipeline (a then new project in New York and New England. I had to learn quickly how to talk to and with the local community residents and how to win a local government vote.


It stymies me that developers have in some instances not gotten better at this. But I have seen in person some stupid statements made that infuriated the crowd. And look at these unbelievable statements made by the developer of a proposed carbon sequestration project in Indiana.


But as this piece ponders, environmentalists need to learn and change also.


Most States Are Doing Nothing to Address NIMBYism


To my knowledge, only three states have moved at the state level to address and mitigate renewables-related NIMBYism.


Meanwhile, a Report from Columbia University issued last May found that renewable energy projects have encountered significant opposition in 45 states. It also found that 228 local laws, ordinances, and policies have been enacted in 35 states to restrict such projects.

Most People Are Not NIMBYs – They Are YIMBYs


It turns out that most NIMBYism stems from the squeaky wheel of a minority of people.


A recent Washington Post-University of Maryland Poll found that 75% of Americans would be comfortable living near a solar farm (and almost 70% say the same about wind turbines)


Turning to the inescapable political breakdown of that data, 66% of Republicans say that are OK being near a solar farm and 87% of Democrats say the same.


The poll showed similar numbers (around 70%) in each of the rural, suburban, and urban categories.


I know that some respondents to these questions may answer one way in the abstract and then think again when a project is proposed next to them. But still the poll numbers are encouraging in a climate mitigation context.


Here’s the Rub - YIMBYs Are Not Showing UP


If, as noted above, most people are not NIMBYs, that doesn’t help address the NIMBY problem if they are a silent majority. Right now, only the NIMBYs are active and organized relative to a project. Only the NIMBYs show up at hearings and meetings.


And I bet at this point that you have forgotten about my bathroom….


I have been following development of one particular solar farm project in the area where I live. Recently, the State Public Utility Commission held an official but informal hearing to get input from the general public on the project.


I did not sign up to speak, as I just wanted to observe and further my understanding of NIMBYism. (I already knew from attending a previous local government meeting on the project that there was an organized NIMBY group)


During the hearing, only one person got up to speak in support of the project, noting the benefits of the site and its location to transmission lines and other site-specific characteristics.


When everyone who had signed up to speak had done so, the Commission asked if anyone else wanted to speak.


I raised my hand.


My comments were brief and did not really address the specific project nor endorse it. I first noted that in all the hours of comments that had just been made, no one mentioned climate change. Yes, there were several commenters who said they supported (if not loved) solar but that they wanted it to happen somewhere else. I made the point that in the context of climate change, we need a lot of solar energy in a lot of places.


My second point was to ask everyone present to look around the auditorium and note that there are no young people in the room. I talked about the rising rate of climate anxiety among our young people. I talked about the need to think in terms of intergenerational inheritance and legacy. I told them, as I noted earlier, young people likely view a solar farm not as ugly, but a sign of hope – at a time when hopelessness among them is increasing.


My bathroom contractor was someone who had already done a couple of projects at my house. We had been discussing the bathroom project since late winter. I had already purchased some items to be installed, and he and I had exchanged numerous messages in the weeks preceding the hearing on the project.


My contractor was not in the audience that night, but he lives in the Town where the project is to be deployed. He does not live anywhere near the project site. Now it may be a coincidence, but since that night and to this day I have not heard from that contractor no matter how many emails, voicemails, and text messages I have sent. 


I would like to be using a new bathroom right now, but I am not sorry I got up to speak. And it is important that you get up to speak as well. It is natural human nature that the people that feel personally impacted by something show up to try to stop it. But as someone once said in so many words - more than half the game of winning is showing up.




Climate advocates and supporters must understand that NIMBYs can have legitimate arguments and claims. NIMBYs must be recognized and heard. But when appropriate, those arguments need to be countered. And often they are not. Those who don’t feel personally impacted tend to not be active – and don’t speak up. These people also can be reluctant to get active because they are criticized in the context of “easy for you to say – you are not the one personally impacted”. Acknowledgement of that by a YIMBY must be part of the dialogue.


And it's not just for adults. Large numbers of young people across the country are active in climate advocacy. But in addition to holding signs and poster in parades and other events, why not hold them outside a hearing or meeting on a solar project? They could do that without saying anything about the specific project. They could help remind people what is at stake.


My final thought on showing up …


One of my favorite quotes that has guided a lot of my career activity and many of my personal victories comes from the late Jimmy Valvano, the charismatic Coach of North Carolina State. When talking about basketball strategy during a game he said, “you have to put yourself in position to win”. He explained that by doing that, one may or may not win the game, but by not doing that, the chances of winning at the end of the game are slim.


YIMBYs need to put themselves in a position to help renewable energy projects win. YIMBYs need to show up. Think about it.


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Links to Past Posts:

Hmm..So How Much Did My Heat Pump Really Cost?

What it Means to Be a Climate Voter

The Climate Conundrum of Air Conditioning

Predictions Made About Utilities Made 10 Years Ago - How Did They Hold up?

My Vote For The Most Under-Appreciated Impact of Climate Change

10 Things I Should Have Written About

So I Went to the COP - Here Are My Top 10 Takeaways.

Efficiency and Clean Energy - Faster vs More

Efficiency & Clean Energy - More vs. Faster

It's Time For A Climate Vote - On the Record

Good COP, Bad COP .....Thoughts Before Glasgow

One of These Things is Not Like the Others

What I Should Have Written About

The Serenity of Being a Climate Voter

Decarbonization Dilemma: 10 COVID Impacts that Worry Me

COVID Conundrum: Looking for Clean Energy "Twofers"

Clean Energy Conundrum: The Slippery Slope to BANANAs

Decarbonization Dilemma: The Tragedy of the Common(s) Light Bulb

Decarbonization Dilemma: My Top 10 Predictions for 2020

Decarbonization Dilemma: Time, Timing and Timelines

Climate Conundrum: Wildfires, Wine, Waste and Going Without in CA

Clean Energy Conundrum: The Ring of Round Numbers

Climate Conundrum: Hitting the Utility Pocketbook

A Different Kind of Conundrum, A Different Kind of Denial - My Thoughts on the IPCC Report

Clean Energy Conundrum: How Should We Think About Natural Gas


Clean Energy Conundrum: What Are We Storing?

The ABCs...and EDFs....of Energy Efficiency


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