State leadership, in adopting renewable electricity standards (RES)—a policy which requires utilities to gradually increase their use of wind, solar, and other renewable power sources over time—has been a primary driver for deploying these clean sources over the last fifteen years. It’s no wonder then, that champions for the coal industry and a 20th century power system have launched an all-out assault on the popular and successful policy. The latest round came on Monday, when Politico featured an op-ed by the Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist and Patrick Gleason, filled with recycled and inaccurate arguments and calling on state legislatures to “rethink” (i.e. repeal) them.
The most ridiculous claim, which was thoroughly debunked in an excellent blog post by the folks at Climate Progress, attempts to lay sole blame on state RES policies for the wide range of electricity rates paid by consumers in various states. Suffice it to say their level of analytic rigor in supporting this claim wouldn’t pass muster even in a middle school classroom. So instead of piling on there, let me point out a couple additional miscalculations.
State Renewable Electricity Standards are a Bipartisan Policy
The authors assert that Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are ripe candidates for repeal primarily because they have state legislatures and governorships controlled by the Republicans. Yet, Republicans played a substantial role in originally adopting the RES in each of those states. In both Ohio and Pennsylvania, Republicans had majority control of the House and Senate chambers that approved RES legislation. In Michigan and Wisconsin, Republicans controlled one of the chambers at the time of enactment, and Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Tommy Thompson signed it into law (one year before then-Governor George W. Bush signed the Texas RES into law).
In fact, of the 35 states that adopted either enforceable RESs or voluntary renewable energy goals, all but eight were put in place with the support of a Republican-controlled House, Senate, or governorship (see map). Three additional states—Colorado, Washington, and Missouri—adopted their RESs via ballot initiative, in some ways the ultimate test of bipartisan support.
The reason that Democrat and Republican policy makers alike have backed state RESs is that they recognize the economic development, job creation, fuel diversity, and public health benefits that come from increasing our use of clean, homegrown renewable energy. They also know that poll after poll shows broad public support for renewable energy, despite well-funded attacks from opponents.
State Renewable Electricity Standards Bolster Job Creation
Norquist and Gleason also falsely claim that state RESs could lead to job losses, despite strong evidence to the contrary. Renewable electricity standards create demand for investments in new clean power facilities, which in turn lead to jobs in project development, construction, operations, and maintenance.
An RES also provides companies with the long-term market certainty they need to invest in new manufacturing facilities. For example, the American Wind Energy Association reports that over the last six years, U.S. domestic production of wind turbine components has grown 12-fold to more than 400 facilities in 43 states. Consider Colorado, a state that has become a national leader in wind and solar development since it first adopted its RES in 2004. Vestas, a Danish wind turbine manufacturer, has invested in four manufacturing facilities in the state, employing about 2,500 people operating at full capacity. In turn, six other companies which supply components to Vestas have also expanded operations in Colorado.
The renewable energy sector is also supporting jobs in the Midwest, a region with a long history of supporting RES policy. For example, in Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin, nearly 1,000 companies employing more than 50,000 people are participating in the wind and solar industries alone today. If these states and the rest of the Midwest were to adopt new or strengthen existing renewable energy standards and other energy efficiency policies, it could lead to more than 85,000 net new jobs and nearly $41 billion in new capital investment by 2030, while saving consumers $42.8 billion on their energy bills.
As state leaders across the country return to their work after the holidays, they should take Grover Norquist’s advice and rethink state renewable electricity standards. However, instead of repeal, they should think about joining together to adopt new or stronger RES targets and other clean energy policies.
Posted in: Energy
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