The Benefits Of Green Energy For Rural America

By Marlena Chertock | May 15, 2017




With the cost of wind and solar technologies falling, renewable energy is experiencing dramatic growth. Despite the Trump administration’s emphasis on expanding traditional fossil fuels, the commitment to renewable energy is clearly seen in corporate America and several nations with goals to go 100 percent green by varying deadlines.

Governors of 20 states support sustainable fuels, according to a March article in Forbes. Almost 30 states have enacted renewable portfolio standards.

Renewable resources are the fastest growing source of energy for electricity generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Renewable energy will experience annual increases averaging 2.9 percent from 2012 to 2040.

In the United States, more than half of the 24,000 megawatts of electricity generation capacity added to the grid in 2016 came from renewable resources, according to Scientific American. Also, about 60 percent of that electricity came from wind and solar energy.

“The growth of the renewable energy industry is an American success story built on federal research and development, state policy leadership, private sector investment and ingenuity,” writes Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, in a letter to President Trump. The governors are also the chair and vice-chair of the Governors Wind Energy Coalition.

Companies and utilities aren’t discouraged by the administration’s dismissal of green energy. Even without a national carbon strategy, Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts that wind and solar energy may grow 33 percent over the next two years. This may be driven by state, rather than federal, policies.

In 2016, the solar industry employed more than 200,000 workers in all 50 states, and wind energy employed more than 100,000 workers, according to Forbes. Seventy percent of the nation’s wind farms are located in low-income areas, and U.S. wind companies have paid rural landowners $222 million a year.

Many companies have vowed to increase their commitment to renewable energy. Some invest directly in renewable projects, others enter power purchase agreements where they buy the output from those generating it.

In November 2016, Walmart became the first retailer to create an emissions-reduction plan that has been approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative, in alignment with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. The company will use energy-efficiency methods and renewable energy to reduce its operations emissions by 18 percent by 2025. Walmart will work with suppliers to reduce emissions by 1 gigaton by 2030, or the “equivalent to taking more than 211 million passenger vehicles off of U.S. roads and highways for a year.”

General Motors is investing in renewable energy to mitigate its carbon emissions, with a goal to end coal use in North America. The company plans to increase its current 106 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy to 125 MW by 2030.

According to Forbes, utilities are adding green power simply because their customers are asking for it. States that have renewable portfolios are partly responsible for its growth.

About The Author

Chertock is a poet and renewable energy and science journalist in the Washington, D.C., area. Contact her at [email protected].

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