With the near term opportunity to add 271,701 GWh of renewable energy in Southeastern states, today the region came one step closer to putting people to work exploiting this rich potential.
During a hearing called by the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the committee heard testimony regarding a proposed renewable energy standard (RES) that would require utilities to provide up to 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by the year 2021. This requirement could easily be met in the Southeast, as eleven Southeastern states have untapped, feasible renewable energy resources of 271,701 gigawatt-hours (GWh, equal to one million kilowatt hours). Together with existing renewable energy supplies, the states could meet 25 percent of current electricity needs using biomass, solar and wind energy.
“Our forthcoming analysis shows that we can meet this renewable energy goal,” said Dr. Stephen A. Smith, executive director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “The Southeast has the capacity to meet a robust RES that will diversify our energy mix, create new job opportunities, improve our national security and help us reduce our global warming pollution.”
Contrary to assertions made by Senators Corker (R-TN) and Landrieu (D-LA) during the hearing, the Southeast has abundant wind energy potential. Bioenergy remains the region’s most viable near-term resource, but on-shore wind resources can also help meet goals. Over time, offshore wind resources will contribute as well. Using wind industry data resources, the Southeast could obtain up to 675,000 GWh of electricity from wind turbines, mostly along the Atlantic Coast.
The Forest Landowners Association testified at today’s hearing, explaining that an RES will help avoid the increasing conversion of forests to land uses that do not sequester carbon or provide environmental benefits like wildlife habitat or water quality protection. An RES that includes woody biomass from private lands will provide valued markets for waste or currently under-used forest products.
Developing the Southeast’s bioenergy potential can provide both environmental and economic benefits. In 2007 the University of Florida partnered with the USDA Forest Service and other organizations to analyze the economic impact of a 20 and 40 MW wood-fueled power plant in several Southern states. The study looked at 15 counties in Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas and found that, in the Southeast, one 20 MW plant creates an average of 177 full-time, part-time and seasonal jobs. A 40 MW plant creates an average of 393 jobs.
Furthermore, in 2008 La Capra Associates, Inc. and GDS Associates, Inc. prepared an independent analysis of North Carolina’s modest state RES. Their analysis reveals that constructing and operating bioenergy facilities that turn waste forest and agricultural products into electricity creates more jobs than some traditional energy resources.
“We urge Congress to reject the myth that the Southeast cannot meet an RES. We can, and in doing so, we will find the economic solutions our region needs as well,” Dr. Smith stated. “We look forward to working with members of Congress to craft a workable policy that enables our region’s renewable energy resources to be part of a clean energy solution. The time for delay and distraction is over. Now is the time to develop our region’s renewable energy potential.”
The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy applauds Chairman Bingaman for holding this important hearing confronting the issues surrounding a national RES.
1. Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s full renewable energy analysis will be published within a week. The eleven states referred to include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. # # # Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible energy choices that create global warming solutions and ensure clean, safe, and healthy communitiesthroughout the Southeast. For more information, go to: www.cleanenergy.org.