Nick is a Justmeans staff writer for the Climate Change and Energy & Emissions categories, with a background working on climate and energy issues both on the ground and online. Nick is particularly interested in the interplay between the written word and the creation of on-the-ground change, which he examined in-depth in his senior thesis while at Pacific University. Since graduating from col...
US Renewable Energy Standard Would Grow Jobs and Innovation
In the US, a comprehensive energy and emissions bill that drives down consumption of fossil fuels is almost certainly dead for this year. However there's still at least some hope that the US Congress could implement another type of policy meant to spur clean energy innovation, and make the US competitive in the world of clean tech once again. This last hope for sustainable business advocates is the renewable energy portfolio standarda law that would require major utilities to produce a certain amount of their electricity from renewable energy sources within a certain specified time frame.
A renewable energy standard (RES) is no permanent substitute for an energy and emissions bill that puts a price on carbon. However it could help speed up the growth of sustainable business, which has slowed in response to this year's failure to pass a national carbon emissions policy. Navigant Consulting has conducted an analysis of the economic impacts of a strong RES, commissioned by the RES Alliance for Jobs. According to the report, requiring utilities to derive 25% of their electricity from renewable energy by the year 2025 would create over 274,000 jobs that would not exist otherwise. Now that's the power of sustainable business to stimulate the economy.
The report also predicts that US residents everywhere would benefit from a strong RES standard. According to conventional wisdom, regions like the Southeast Unites States do not have the Southwest's potential to develop solar power, or the Midwest's impressive wind resources - and this has led to fears that national clean energy policies might put the Southeast at a disadvantage. However it turns out the Southeast has plenty of renewable energy resources, and a national RES would help this region finally begin to catch up. Authors of the Navigant report predict biomass will be one of the most important resources in Southeast states.
While lawmakers at the national level try to decide whether to pursue a nation-wide RES, many states are already experimenting with the idea. Twenty-four states now have some kind of RES of their own, although some standards are much stronger than others. Oregon, for example, is requiring large utilities to produce a quarter of their electricity from clean energy by 2025 - the same type of standard which Navigant looked at implementing nationally. Oregon's RES and other climate and clean energy laws have helped make the state a center for renewable energy innovation in the US, and provide hope for economic recovery during tough times.
Another critical point made by Navigant is that a good RES is essential to the US staying competitive in the field of clean energy. Without such a standard, the report predicts the US will actually lose jobs; meanwhile countries like China will continue to take the lead attracting sustainable business start-ups. The message is clear: the United States can choose to implement a renewable energy standard, or it can sit back while innovators and entrepreneurs leave the country for more welcoming parts of the world. What do you think? Can the US still get its act together, and pass a renewable energy standard this year?
Photo credit: Nick Engelfried
Nick Engelfried is a freelance writer on climate and energy issues, and works with campuses and communities in the Pacific Northwest to reduce the causes of climate change.