This was written by Keith Gaby for EDF+Voices:
This solar energy plant in Nevada can power 75,000 homes during peak demand and will generate $73 million in tax revenues over 20 years. Source: Solar Reserve.
Everyone in Colorado skis, all Oklahomans can rope a calf, and native New Jerseyans like me all talk like Pauly D did on Jersey Shore. Right?
You may also stereotype when it comes to clean energy: Progressive states such as California are pumping out clean, renewable energy while others insist on clinging to old, dirty power plants. Well, it’s more complicated than that.
California, which has a market-based system for cutting carbon pollution, does lead the country. But a number of states, including notably Nevada, Texas and North Carolina, are also making great progress on clean energy – which may surprise some.
Their success is evidence that the supposed divide on clean power may be more about politics than economics and opportunities on the ground.
And that bodes well for the federal Clean Power Plan’s goal of reducing emissions from America’s power plants. Because if Texas is well-positioned to comply, why couldn’t other states do the same?
Energy policies that boost state economies
Texas, home of Big Oil, big hats, and JR Ewing, actually has more energy potential from resources sweeping over its prairies – in the form of wind and sunshine – than from those flowing underneath them. The state leads the nation in wind power and combined heat and power, and has the potential to generate more solar power than any other state.
If energy efficiency used by Austin Energy were extended across the state, it would reduce peak electricity growth by 40 percent, while keeping Texans as high-powered as ever.
Nevada, meanwhile, has also been smart about exploiting its huge solar energy potential. The state’s current renewable energy standard requires utilities to generate 25 percent of its power from renewable resources by 2025, with 6 percent coming from solar energy by 2016.
With more than 250 days of sunshine a year and abundant wind and geothermal energy potential, this goal is well within reach. Nevada’s forward-thinking energy policies and commitment to clean energy are part of the reason Tesla chose it as the location of its multi-billion dollar gigafactory to produce batteries for electric cars.
Finally, in North Carolina, tax credits and a modest renewable energy portfolio standard created opportunities to build a strong clean energy industry.
North Carolina is now one of the top four states in installed solar capacity and second behind California in large, utility-scale solar projects. Clean energy added nearly $5 billion to the state’s economy last year, and today provides nearly 23,000 jobs.
Earlier this year, tech giants like Google, Apple and Facebook told lawmakers that state policies “made North Carolina particularly attractive to [their] businesses.” Retail giants Walmart and North Carolina-based Lowe’s Home Improvement told lawmakers they want more choice and competition when it comes to energy.
North Carolina’s burgeoning clean energy economy suffered a set-back this year, however, when state lawmakers chose not to extend the tax credit – proving that state legislators are not required to take the Hippocratic Oath.
Back-track or invest in the future?
All this will make a big difference when it comes to implementing the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which gives each state a target and flexibility for cutting climate pollution.
As much as some leaders in the Lone Star State and elsewhere complain and sue over this rule, they are actually well on their way to meeting their goals under the plan. If state governments would only take advantage of the natural opportunities they have – be more like Nevada and less like the recent back-tracking in North Carolina – they’d be in great shape.
We need to protect ourselves from the trillions in potential damage that Citibank and others say we’d face from unchecked climate change, so the world is moving toward clean energy. Wouldn’t it be better if state political leaders, who have so much to gain and such an achievable path forward, put their efforts in to creating that future rather than clinging to the past?
Forward-looking leaders do, because stereotypes aside, it ultimately comes down to good economics.