With their two-week Easter recess under way, members of Congress are back home using the time away from Washington to visit with, and hear from, constituents about the issues that concern them and impact their lives.
We urge renewable energy advocates to make good use of this time and reach out to their elected officials. This is a prime opportunity to press for legislation that promotes policies, budgets, funding mechanisms and tax reforms for the clean alternatives that boost local economies, enhance the nation’s energy security and leave a reduced carbon footprint.
Renewable energy advocates hardly represent a small, special interest. Earlier this year, a survey by the nonpartisan and highly respected Pew Research Center found that 65 percent of Americans give priority to developing alternative energy sources, compared with 27 percent who would emphasize expanded production of fossil fuel sources.
As can be expected, just more than 80 percent of the Democrats surveyed supported a push for renewables. However, even with a GOP-controlled White House that has made the increased development of oil, gas and coal a priority, Republicans polled in the Pew survey were split, with those supporting alternative energy sources holding a slight edge at 45 percent compared to 44 percent that were in favor of expanding fossil fuel production.
A few months ago, a survey conducted by the Republican polling firm, Public Opinion Strategies, found that 75 percent of the voters who supported President Trump at the polls last November, favored “action to accelerate the deployment and use of clean energy” such as solar, and wind, along with energy efficiency and community renewable projects.
Even within a conservative state like North Carolina, surveys done in each of the past three years – including one done in late February – by an issues management firm run by two long-time Republican political consultants showed that more than 80 percent of the state’s population said they would more likely vote for a candidate “who supports policies that encourage renewable energy options such as wind, solar and waste to energy technologies.”
The polls continually show that clean energy is not a partisan issue. American voters across the political spectrum are adamantly supportive of the vast economic benefits being generated by renewable energy development.
A very recent case in point is research released late last month by the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Business Renewables Center (BRC) showing that infrastructure upgrades and market improvements are drawing major corporate energy buyers to the Southwest Power Pool market (SPP). The SPP manages the electric grid and wholesale energy market for the central United States, extending across 14 states from the Texas Panhandle north to the Canadian border in Montana.
In fact, the research shows two-thirds of the corporate power purchase agreement (PPA) volume signed to date has occurred in a Great Plains state like Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma. Here, companies can use the booming availability of wind energy driven by technological advances and falling costs to ensure they meet their growing need for electricity at a stable, long-term price. This stability provides a boost to a company’s bottom line, which means more long-term jobs.
It is little wonder that North Carolina voters support renewables to the wide extent that’s demonstrated in the surveys previously mentioned here. According to the Duke University Center on Globalization, Governance and Competitiveness, the state has the same amount of sun exposure as other states in the South, but has attracted a disproportionate share of solar industry investment – ranking it first in the region – due in large part to friendly policies. North Carolina is home to more than 450 companies involved in the solar industry. According to the most recent Solar Foundation jobs census, those companies provide more than 7,100 jobs, while the sector overall generates up to $2 billion in direct investment in the state.
That conservative bedrocks like Iowa and Kansas are currently getting nearly a third and more than 20 percent, respectively, of their electricity from renewable resources. This clearly shows that the expansion of clean energy is taking place all across the nation, especially in the rural heartland that widely supported President Trump. And it cannot be emphasized enough that across the energy sector, the clean energy industry employs far more American workers than the fossil fuel industry, by a margin of more than 2.5 to 1, according to DOE jobs data.
The 25x’25 Alliance calls on advocates to do the research and arm themselves with the data that clearly shows how renewables offers cheaper, cleaner and more secure energy (resources for state-level information can be found online for solar, wind, hydropower and biodiesel, among other sectors). Take those facts and meet with your elected representatives while they are home during this recess. Make the case that they have the opportunity and prerogative to return to Washington and secure for their congressional districts – and beyond – a momentous step forward in our nation’s energy future.