Energy Businesses: Opportunities That Foster Self-Reliance

Start on your path to self-reliance with these tips from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance on ways for community groups to get started in an energy business.

| July/August 1978

  • Solar Panel
    Solar water heater installation requires no hard-to-learn skills, making the job the perfect opportunity for urban residents to gain self-reliance.

  • Solar Panel

For a couple years in the 1970s, the good folks at the Institute for Local SelfReliance in Washington, D.C. worked to help urban residents gain greater control over their lives through the use of low-technology, decentralist tools and concepts. We strongly believe that more people (city dwellers and country folk alike) should be exposed to the Institute's efforts, which is why we're now making this "what's happening where" report by ILSR staffers one of MOTHER's regular features.

Energy-Related Businesses

Wall Street has its ups and downs, and economic trends are as hard to predict as ever, but most financial wizards are agreed on one thing: Energy-related industries are experiencing a "boom" right now; a boom that can be expected to continue right on through the next decade. Experts point out that in the solar industry alone, sales could reach $1 billion by 1980, perhaps $10 billion in 1985.

This upsurge in energy-related business activities presents an unusual opportunity for community development corporations, civic groups, and entrepreneurs. Energy-related manufacturing, installation, and service enterprises can — in many cases — be started with very little capital, and — once launched — such enterprises can fill an important niche in the community by creating jobs, providing training, and reducing local residents' energy needs.

Most important (from a community development standpoint), such new manufacturing installation/service businesses can provide long-term employment for jobless residents who have not had sophisticated training or prior experience in energy systems.

Here are just a few energy-related businesses that the Institute for Local Self-Reliance has examined in some detail:

Cellulose Insulation

The demand for cellulose insulation (which is made by mixing fire-retardant chemicals with pulverized newspaper) is currently at an all-time high. In at least one state, there's a six-month backlog in orders for the material. The amount of capital requited to open a cellulose insulation plant, however, is prohibitive for the typical community development corporation.

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