Renewables in Central Appalachia

Support for renewable energy in Central Appalachia is growing, prompting policy makers to consider incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency throughout the region.While some supporters are motivated by the prospect of cleaner sources of electricity, others are buoyed by estimates of long-term job creation related to the manufacturing, distribution and installation of equipment required to realize renewable energy potential.

Speculation persists among some citizens, however, that renewables are not viable in the region due to low-sunlight, variable wind patterns, or other technical barriers.In fact, the role of supportive policies is identified increasingly as the driving force for renewable energy installation rather than technical viability.New Jersey, a state with solar resources comparable to Kentucky’s, has created the second largest solar market in the United States as a result of adopting substantial policy incentives for renewable energy technology.

A 2009 report by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has projected that: “With energy efficiency improvements, renewable energy could meet 30% or more of the Southeast’s need for electric power.”

Andy McDonald, Director of the Kentucky Solar Partnership, wrote in a recent op-ed that the potential for renewable energy technologies—including solar, wind and low-impact hydroelectric installations—is substantial.Furthermore, embracing such technologies will promote a wide variety of benefits for the state not least of which, according to McDonald, would be economic development and job creation:

“The bottom line is that solar and wind are being developed at a very large scale in other states. Those states are attracting billions of dollars in investment and creating thousands of new jobs, while furthering their goals of energy independence, public health, and environmental protection. The barriers to doing this in Kentucky are not technical, and they are not due to a lack of wind, solar and hydro resources.”

A new coalition recently formed to address such barriers; The Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance (KySEA) works to promote clean, sustainable and affordable energy solutions for Kentucky.

KySEA pulls together support from a wide set of stakeholders, including McDonald’s Appalachia Science in the Public Interest group.McDonald writes, “ASPI is working closely with the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance and its many members to develop a legislative proposal for Kentucky’s 2010 legislative session.”

KySEA’s efforts will be focused on supporting comprehensive energy legislation that benefits all Kentuckains.Updates from KySEA’s work with the current Kentucky state legislative session will be posted regularly on the coalition website.

Kristin Tracz

About Kristin Tracz

Kristin Tracz served MACED’s Research and Policy team from 2009-2012 working on clean energy policy, energy efficiency programs and the Appalachian Transition Initiative. She joined MACED after finishing her Master of Environmental Management degree at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. She now lives and works in Washington, DC.