Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New Report Shows Significant Potential for Renewable Energy in South

The South could generate 20-30 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources within the next 20 years – up from less than 4 percent today -- if strong federal policies are enacted, according to a report released July 27 by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Duke University. The analysis, “Renewable Energy in the South,” finds that conventional wisdom has underestimated the available renewable resources in the region and that a federal renewable electricity standard (RES) would enable the South to capitalize on this untapped renewable energy potential.

Read the Full Report Here:

The South lags behind all other regions in renewable electricity, obtaining 3.7 percent of its power from renewable sources, compared to 9.5 percent for the country as a whole. Only four states (Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, and Texas) have a state-level renewable portfolio standard, while three others have voluntary renewable energy goals.  The fate of renewables in the South is not only important for the region, but for the nation as a whole since, in 2008, the region accounted for 44 percent of the country’s energy consumption.

Opponents of renewable energy production claim that the South lacks the renewable energy resources to capitalize on the growing demand for clean energy.  However, the report finds that there are abundant renewable energy resources available that can be tapped if supportive policies are put in place. The report shows that if a 25 percent (by 2025) federal RES is enacted, the amount of electricity supplied by power companies from renewable sources could increase more than 250 percent above the level expected in 2030 if no new federal renewables policies were enacted.

A number of other studies have shown a large potential for renewable energy in the South,” said Etan Gumerman of Duke University’s Nicholas Institute and co-lead researcher of the study.  “Our study shows that significant increases can actually be achieved, particularly through supportive local or federal policies.”

The report, using a customized version of the economic modeling system used by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, finds that a federal renewable electricity standard and carbon pricing system would increase the proportion of electricity derived from renewable sources by power companies in every state, particularly in wind and biomass. By 2030, the report shows, federal carbon pricing policy would increase renewable electricity production in the South by 390 percent.

“Countries around the world are already tapping into the potential of renewable energy, and are capturing export markets and generating jobs in the process,” said Dr. Marilyn Brown of the Georgia Institute of Technology and co-lead researcher of the study.  “The report demonstrates that although many states in the South are off to a slow start, renewable initiatives are now underway across the region, and the potential for expansion is promising.” 

In addition, the report finds that electricity produced by end-users, such as households and businesses using small-scale solar electric and heating facilities, would also benefit from federal policies and could supply a substantial portion of the region’s renewable electricity.  Under a 25 percent RES, for example, renewable electricity supplied by utilities and end-users could increase by 154 percent. Carbon pricing policy could lead to a 266 percent increase above the total level of renewable electricity expected in the absence of federal policy changes.

“In the future, households and businesses have the potential to become major suppliers of clean, renewable electricity,” added Dr. Brown.  “This changes the way we need to think about the South’s renewable energy potential.”


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