The South Has Renewable Energy Too!

In attempt to counter the increasingly common myth that renewable energy is not practical in the Southern United States, researchers at the Georgia Tech School of Public Policy recently released a paper entitled “Renewable Energy in the South: A Policy Brief”. The paper’s abstract reveals the technical approach researchers took, and highlights the conclusion: “Cost-effective customer-owned renewables could also contribute significantly to electricity generation by 2030 in the South, under supportive policies” (emphasis mine).

Some groups are pushing a last minute Renewable Electricity Standard – which would set federally-mandated minimum targets for utilities of electricity from renewable electricity sources – through a floor amendment (since it was not included in the original bill) in the Senate. Many of these groups are especially targeting lawmakers in the South, who believe that their states do not have sufficient renewable capacity and thus would be hurt by requirements to increase renewable generation capacity. Papers like the Georgia Tech brief, as well as other information and graphs (see David Roberts’ article “The South has Renewable Energy Too” here), are seeking to correct that misconception showing the significant potential for renewable energy – especially sustainably harvested biomass, wind and hydroelectric power—throughout the Southern states.

Groups closer to the ground here in Kentucky are also working on raising awareness about the potential for renewable and efficiency technologies and pass these required supportive policies here in the region. The Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance (KySEA) “works to promote clean, sustainable and affordable energy solutions for Kentucky. Our broad based coalition has come together to develop the ideas, resources, public understanding and political support necessary to advance solutions that can help all Kentuckians save money and energy, especially those who are most vulnerable to rising costs and rapidly changing energy conditions.” KySEA is actively engaged in shaping the policy framework to support renewable energy and energy efficiency technology throughout Kentucky.

In West Virginia, groups like the Jobs Project and West Virginia Greenworks are preparing workers for clean energy opportunities in the Mountain state. Tennessee’s TVA recently marked the 10 year anniversary of the Green Power Switch program and has reopened the (temporarily suspended) Generation Partners program for purchasing renewable energy from consumer-generators. Virginia’s renewable energy efforts are highlighted through the work of the Wise Energy for Virginia coalition. Support for these and many other efforts is growing throughout the Central Appalachian region — but we need more! Be sure to visit these organizations as your state’s legislative session approaches to find out what you can do to support the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency in your community.

Georgia Tech Paper Abstract: This working paper assesses the economic potential of renewable electricity generation in the South under alternative policy scenarios. Using a customized version of the National Energy Modeling System (NEMS), we examine the impact of 1) expanded and updated estimates of renewable resources, 2) a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), and 3) a Carbon-Constrained Future (CCF). Under the Expanded Renewables Scenario, renewable electricity generation doubles the output of the Reference forecast for the South. If a Federal RPS is imposed or the policies represented by our CCF scenario are implemented, we estimate that 15% to 30% of the South’s electricity could be generated from renewable sources. Among the renewable resources, wind, biomass, and hydro are anticipated to provide the most generation potential. As the integration of renewable sources expands through the modeled time horizon, wind gradually out-competes biomass in the renewable electricity market. Cost-effective customer-owned renewables could also contribute significantly to electricity generation by 2030 in the South, under supportive policies.

Do you have a story about using renewable energy in the region? Let us know through an email to info at appalachiantransition dot net.

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.