Renewable Energy Fact Sheet

It’s fairly easy to make renewable energy look like a pipe dream, and misguided attacks on clean energy is doing just that: making renewables look too costly, too sporadic; not merited because it’s not competitive with fossil fuels, or that it won’t create jobs.

These petty strikes against the renewable energy industry don’t even remotely mesh with what we know is true about clean energy, and Think Progress recently published an article pointing out what you really need to know about the value of renewable energy.

1. Clean energy is competitive with other types of energy: Renewable energy is affordable now. Not tomorrow, not next year. Now. Even with the price of natural gas being inordinately low, these cheap prices are unsustainable, like any nonrenewable resource,  supplies will dwindle, and prices will rise. But renewable is staying competitive: with the help of bigger turbines, and increased reliability, some wind developers are signing power-purchase agreements in the 3 cents a kilowatt-hour range, which is far cheaper than any other new power source. The same industry maturity is occurring in solar with California solar developers signing contracts for power costing less than that of a natural gas plant.

2. Clean energy creates more jobs than fossil fuels: Renewable energy job creation outstrips fossil fuels 3 to 1. Not only does the renewable energy sector create more jobs, they create better jobs: twice as many medium to high credentialed jobs are being created in the clean energy economy with wages being about 13% higher, and almost half of these jobs employ workers with less than a four year college degree. Aside from these facts, the clean energy industry is actually growing by a rate of 8.3% which is more than can be said about the overall economy.

3. Clean energy improves grid reliability: Yes, it’s true that if the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining then power isn’t going to be generated. But, that doesn’t mean that renewable energy isn’t a viable option for large scale power production. For instance, predictability of wind power would be easier to manage if there was more of it and energy could be delivered without interruption to the grid. Any additional costs for backup generation would be small (less than 10%) and would have little to no effect on consumer power costs.

4. Fossil Fuels have gotten 75 times more subsidies than clean energy: From 1994-2009 the fossil fuel industry received $446.96 billion in subsidies where as in that same time frame renewable energy received $5.93 billion. A study showed that in the early years of the fossil fuel industry, oil and gas producers received federal subsidies making up one half of a percent of the budget. This amount may seem small, but compare that with the one tenth of a percent of federal spending that’s used for renewables. If more subsidies were dedicated to renewable energy instead of the fossil fuel industry, clean energy would become even more cost effective than it is now.

Renewable energy could be an engine for economic growth and a pathway into a sustainable future, but false information that undervalues its potential could really set up road blocks. It’s important to realize the merit behind renewable energy, not only is it affordable and cost effective, but we can make it reliable on a large scale while creating jobs and with more investments from the federal government, we can more forward into a clean energy future.

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If Not Your Backyard, Then Whose?

There are a multitude of things people don’t want in their backyards, and for good reason…chemical plants, coal fired power plants, nuclear waste facilities, incinerators, wind turbines, solar farms…

Sustainable Sunflowers

Wait, what?

Let’s back up a minute.

Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) is a movement that gained serious momentum in the 1980’s and represents strong community oriented opposition to certain types of development.

This morning I read an article about NIMBY movements going global, and how most of these movements were strongly opposed to the industrial projects (power plants, chemical plants, landfills etc.), and to my great surprise, the renewable energy industry.  The article went on to describe that ‘young’, ‘controversial’ industries are more subject to NIMBY resistance than traditional businesses.

I read this sentence not once, but three times. The way this sentence reads to me is that people would rather have “traditional” forms of energy–like coal–in their backyards instead of this newfangled energy we like to call wind and solar.

In theory, NIMBY a good system. No neighborhood should be subjected to the negative consequences of industry–air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution–so close to their homes and families.

No neighborhood. 

The fact of the matter is, this isn’t the case. Chemical plants, coal fired power plants, nuclear waste facilities, and incinerators do go in someone’s backyard, and that backyard usually belongs to minority neighborhoods with low socioeconomic statuses, and little political clout.

Environmental racism, policies that disproportionately heave environmental hazards on minority communities, is a large part of the NIMBY movement, and at the root of environmental disparities.

If communities are shouting, “Not in my backyard!” to wind and solar projects, will that mean these projects will move to low income neighborhoods? If wind and solar energy is sidled off to low income neighborhoods, is that preferable to a power plant polluting poorer communities despite the mechanisms behind it?

Will large scale wind and solar projects even end up in low income neighborhoods? Does this mean dirty energy will continue to prevail as we are accustomed to it as our main energy sustenance?

I realize people might think wind and solar farms are an eyesore. I personally find them mesmerizing and beautiful, though it’s not my opinion that matters at this moment. The fact is, we need to obtain energy some how and if we’re not developing and progressing in the energy sector, we’re at a dirty standstill–one that puts minorities and low income neighborhoods at a disproportionate risk to environmental hazards–to power our iPhones and Macbooks.

Not In My Backyard is a powerful movement, one that is important to protecting communities from harmful environmental risks. If you’re opposing wind and solar farms in your neighborhood, that is, of course, your choice, but you could do a lot worse. Your opposition could mean that these projects are being sidled off onto poor communities–and that’s practically a good scenario–in comparison to what could happen which is dirty “traditional” energy continuing to ravish the energy sector and communities not being able to resist it being in their backyard.

Thanks to this environmental justice article for supplying a good read and valuable information.