Last week we wrote about how fossil fuel-friendly activists such as the Koch-funded ALEC might be hurting their remaining supporters in Red States by going on the warpath against renewable energy. There are two primary reasons for this: jobs and economic activity. We gave examples from Kansas and Texas. This week I thought I’d follow up by looking at some of the green developments that have been taking place in other red states.
The Tar Heel State saw its renewable energy and efficiency investments grow 13-fold – to $1.4 billion – in the period from 2007 to 2012. When construction and other related activities are factored in, there was a $1.7 billion contribution to the state’s GDP during that period with no appreciable impact on utility rates. The RTI-La Capra analysis also predicts that electric rates will be lower in twenty years than they would have been without these actions. The report also found that every dollar in incentives resulted in $1.87 in state or local revenue. North Carolina has a renewable portfolio standard that mandates 12.5 percent of all electricity come from renewables or efficiency by 2021.
North Carolina’s good experience is particularly significant in light of the Georgia Tech study that found the southeastern United States lagging the rest of the country with an average of 3.7 percent renewable electricity compared the national average of 9.5 percent. This, despite the fact that, with its hot, humid summers, the region, which contains 25 percent of the US population, consumes 44 percent of the nation’s electricity.
Alabama, with its enormous forest resources (71 percent of its total land mass is forested) recognizes its potential for biomass energy. In 2007, it ranked fourth nationally in biomass electricity. Given the vulnerability of its Gulf cost to extreme weather events, it stands to reason that Alabamans will continue to pursue this path.
Arkansas’ rich farmland has the potential to produce enough cellulosic ethanol from corn and sorghum to replace 40 percent of the gasoline consumed in the state. Biomass is also sufficient to provide 150 percent of the state’s electricity. The state is also home to LM Wind Power, maker of turbine rotor blades, which plans to employ over a thousand people in its Little Rock plant during its first five years.
Tennessee has the largest per capita electricity consumption in the nation, in part because of the Federally-funded legacy of the TVA, which encouraged the use of electricity by its customers in the name of progress and economic growth. The state’s Renewable Energy and Economic Development Council is promoting solar development for communities, municipal waste to energy programs and biofuels for government fleets. A study by Oak Ridge National Lab found that the state has 4.5 million acres suitable for the cultivation of switchgrass for cellulosic ethanol.
South Carolina started up a biomass cogeneration plant in Aiken last year. The 20MW plant is expected to save close to $1 billion over its 20-year life. The state has considerable resources. Santee Cooper already has 151MW operational or under contract.
Louisiana is combining its vast refinery experience with its enormous biomass resource and getting into the bio-refinery business. After a slow start, Louisiana is starting to roll with projects exploiting biomass, co-generation and wind power.
Indiana is the third fastest-growing state in the country for wind power. Likewise Oklahoma is starting to realize the inherent value that blows across its open expanses. Google has a 100 WM power purchase agreement (PPA) from an Oklahoma wind farm for its Mayes County data center. The state currently has a voluntary 15 percent renewable energy target. Wind power contributes thousands of jobs in the state each year.
It is clear that while these Red States are not leading the charge on renewables, they are beginning to follow, out of recognition of the very real and tangible benefits that this technology can bring. This growing awareness should provide resistance to the movement by the likes of ALEC to roll back the renewable energy portfolio standards that have done so much to support this type of development.
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