We usually use this space to cite the outstanding efforts being made by partners, stakeholders, policy makers and other renewable energy advocates to advance the 25x’25 Alliance Vision: America’s farms, ranches and forestlands will meet 25 percent of our nation’s energy needs with renewable resources by 2015. We also use our blog to point out the shortcomings of efforts by political and business interests that would hinder the nation’s pursuit of a clean energy future.
This week, however, we want to turn our gaze inward and look back on some of the goals the 25x’25 Alliance set for 2014 and reflect on the progress made. Among the priorities over the past 12 months:
The Alliance and its nearly 1,000 partners representing renewable energy, business, environmental, power distribution, academic, government and civic interests, helped reframe the national energy conversation to focus on the benefits to rural America of 25x’25’s renewable energy and adaptation strategies. The Alliance leadership supported and mobilized renewable energy champions and beneficiaries in a variety of ways and forums to ensure continued progress in achieving the 25x’25 renewable energy goal. Through talks, opinion pieces and participation in meetings across the country, the Alliance lifted up and reinforced the economic, environmental, energy and national security and public health benefits which flow from achieving a greater percentage of our energy from renewable sources.
Admittedly, it’s difficult to measure how effective all of this work has been. However, a better question might be: What would the public discourse be like if we were not proactively communicating the benefits of 25x’25? While each segment of the renewable energy community does its own communication outreach work, few groups other than 25x’25 and ACORE aggregate and spotlight the collective contributions of wind, solar, geothermal, hydro and bioenergy solutions sets. Work in this arena will remain a priority in 2015 as fossil energy interests are expected to continue and ramp up their misinformation campaigns against renewable energy.
Over the past year, the Alliance has facilitated ongoing efforts of biofuel value chain partners to develop a national biofuel framework plan, including organizing and conducting numerous meetings involving stakeholders with interests in building and implementing a more comprehensive and integrated action plan for realizing the full potential and benefits of U.S. biofuel development.
Given the number and diversity of value chain partners with a major stake in biofuels, forging consensus on elements, strategies and tactics in an action plan is not easy. The challenge of doing so is further complicated by the fact that the same players who need to be involved in long term strategic planning discussions are engaged in intense, near term policy firefights, such as efforts to roll back or repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Despite the challenges, progress is being made, as evidenced by a recent meeting the Alliance helped facilitate in Detroit, where a cross section of auto, agricultural and biofuel stakeholders agreed to collaborate on infrastructure, fuel quality, engine testing and FFV credit work. Support for these efforts will be a focal point for the Alliance next year.
Of course, the Alliance devoted a lot of time defending the RFS and calling on EPA to correct its flawed methodology for calculating biofuels blending requirements. Working with – and alongside – a growing cadre of partners, biofuel proponents succeeded in getting EPA to withdraw the proposed 2014 blending requirements. What happens next remains to be seen, though renewed and expanded legislative efforts to weaken biofuel blending mandates are expected.
Elsewhere, 25x’25 helped mobilize agriculture and forestry partners in Kansas and Ohio where there were significant threats to existing state renewable portfolio standards. Kansas RPS supporters were able defeat a rollback of their state RPS while Ohio partners, though not as successful in thwarting RPS “reform” in their state, helped keep it from being any worse.
Another bioenergy policy priority for the Alliance was working with EPA to get the rules right for how biogenic carbon emissions will be regulated. Working again with a diverse collection of agriculture, forestry, conservation and university partners, the Alliance succeeded in getting the agency to recognize the carbon benefits of biomass, indicating it could take a fair and equitable approach to regulating this important industry.
And over the course of 2014, the Alliance’s Economic Energy Generation (EEG) Initiative team made significant progress in spotlighting and supporting rural electric cooperatives that are implementing distributed renewable energy generation business models. As a result of the tremendous growth that is occurring in rural electric coop supported distributed generation projects, the EEG team is now focusing their attention on pilot projects that not only produce renewable energy, but also important ecosystem service benefits such as carbon sequestration and improvements in soil, water and air quality.
These are just some of the 25x’25 activities and accomplishments of the past year. But they reflect the strong commitment that Alliance members have to a 25x’25 energy future. The Alliance invites all stakeholders to join in sustaining this forward movement and calling on the new, 114th Congress, to seriously engage in discussing, drafting and implementing a long-term, comprehensive energy strategy. A wide-ranging plan for the future can insure the continued development of renewable energy technologies that boost the economy by creating jobs, enhance our energy security by reducing our reliance on imported oil, and improve our environment by replacing fuel and power sources that continue to emit vast amounts of carbon with cleaner alternatives with low to no emissions.