By Susan Williams Sloan
September 19, 2016 at 5:00 am ET
Lower prices, clean, reliable energy and jobs are reasons states, companies and utilities are calling for more renewable electricity.
States representing roughly a quarter of the U.S. population (California, Oregon, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia) have chosen to raise their renewable energy goals higher over the past year. Much of this will be supplied by wind power.
These states are looking to achieve clean energy goals by upgrading existing renewable portfolio standards, or RPSs. Today, 37 states have renewable portfolio goals, which are laws or official declarations designed to create a more diverse energy mix that keeps air clean, lowers costs for ratepayers and attracts private investment into state economies.
And it’s not just states. Companies like Google, Walmart and IKEA are buying more wind energy to power their facilities, while utilities are also diversifying their energy portfolios. As Bill Weihl, Facebook’s director of sustainability, told reporters: “Access to clean energy is one of the key criteria that we consider when looking for new sites for data centers. We want to find places where ideally we can get 100 percent clean energy into our facility.” Utilities, too, are buying wind. An Xcel Energy executive recently said, “Wind prices are extremely competitive right now, offering lower costs than other possible resources.”
The track record speaks for itself.
As America has increasingly generated more of its electricity from renewable energy, rates across the U.S. have remained 5.5 percent lower than they were in 2009. Two years ago, wind power saved consumers $1 billion over just two days in the Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic regions during the historic “Polar Vortex” weather event.
In Iowa, the site of the country’s first RPS, 31 percent of electricity is generated using wind. The state’s RPS helped make this possible, and Iowa now enjoys $11 billion dollars of new investment in local communities, including 6,000 well-paying jobs. Consider that Iowa has America’s seventh-lowest electricity rates, sitting 38 percent below the national average.Texas, the state with the country’s second largest economy and the most electricity demand, established its RPS in 1999 and increased it in 2005. In its competitive electricity market, the Lone Star State met its RPS years early and now generates 10 percent of its electricity using wind power, with about 25,000 in-state wind jobs.
Altogether, building wind farms has attracted $128 billion of private investment into the U.S. economy over the last 10 years and created a record-high 88,000 jobs.
Adding wind energy creates clean air and environmental benefits as well.
Wind energy already reduces carbon dioxide emissions and other pollutants in nearly every state, avoiding 28 million cars’ worth of CO2 each year in the U.S. As wind energy continues growing, from just over five percent of the country’s electricity today to 20 percent by 2030, so will the benefits.
Overall, state RPSs have created $7.5 billion in annual environmental benefits from reduced air emissions, 27 billion gallons in reduced yearly water consumption, and $1.3 billion to $4.9 billion in reduced consumer energy prices according to top U.S. national laboratories, including 200,000 American jobs and $20 billion in annual GDP.
Nine states (Hawaii, California, Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, Connecticut, Oregon, New York and Rhode Island) and the District of Columbia have effective RPS requirements of 25 percent or higher. New York and California, two of the three largest state economies, have raised their goals to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. Oregon is also looking to obtain half of its electricity from renewables by 2040.
States, consumers and utilities are using wind because it works for them.
America is blessed with an abundance of wind. We are harnessing that energy, but we’ve plenty of room to grow. State policies are integral to all energy choices. Wind stands ready to meet the demand for clean, reliable, low-cost power in the 21st Century.
Susan Williams Sloan is vice president of state policy for the American Wind Energy Association.
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