Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) recently released a report, “Building Clean Energy Careers in Kentucky.” The report justifies the creation of clean energy policy in Kentucky for economic development.
Kentucky has a long history of profiting from jobs and cheap energy from coal. The concern is that as coal resources deplete and its price rises, Kentucky will be left behind for its risky lack of energy and workforce diversification. Coal employment has declined dramatically in Kentucky over the years. It now makes up only 1 percent of statewide employment. Meanwhile the state depends on coal for 90 percent of its energy. Just in the last five years, the average price of electricity rose 43 percent in Kentucky. Kentucky needs to consider the long-term cost of its current energy portfolio.
The report brings up an important point, “Rather than putting Kentucky on the defensive, this reality should increase Kentucky’s urgency to mitigate its risks and take advantage of the new opportunities to drive economic development and innovation.”
The report details three primary reasons Kentucky is in a great position to thrive under a clean energy economy:
1. Kentucky’s energy efficiency gap creates opportunities to save money on electricity bills while creating jobs in the labor-intensive construction and retrofit sectors.
2. Kentucky’s manufacturing base creates opportunities for job retention and creation in a transition to renewable energy component part and system manufacturing.
3. Kentucky’s natural landscape and conditions present opportunities for job creation in renewable energy production.
The study notes that of the 101,000 jobs lost in Kentucky since the recession began, 40,000 are in manufacturing and nearly 19,000 in construction, two sectors that can benefits from a growth in the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency markets. Policies focusing on new workforce development and long-term job creation are essential for launching Kentucky into the new energy economy.
Just in the last year, we have begun to see new involvement in energy efficiency and clean energy market development from coal-minded groups in Kentucky.
East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC), a Kentucky wholesale electricity provider, recently announced its cancellation of its proposed Smith Unit #1, a 278 MW Circulating Fluidized Bed coal-fired generating facility intended for Clark County, Ky. This coincides with the establishment of a collaborative working group between EKPC, Gallatin Steel, the Kentucky Attorney General, the Kentucky Environmental Foundation, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, the Sierra Club, and three individuals who filed a complaint with the Kentucky’s Public Service Commission opposing the Smith Unit #1. The group’s focus will be to evaluate and recommend actions to expand the state’s development of renewable energy and demand-side management.
EKPC and Kentucky’s Department for Energy Development and Independence also work with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy as a member of the Tennessee Valley and Eastern Kentucky Wind Working Group. The group was created in January 2010 to work toward creating a market for wind energy in the region.