Renewable energy advocates, including 25x’25, have been called upon in recent years to support and defend a number of policies, funding mechanisms and regulations that aim to not only sustain, but accelerate clean energy development. The renewable energy sector has been forced to engage in skirmishes with those vested interests who would maintain the energy status quo, fighting to protect and promote policy tools like the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, state Renewable Portfolio (or Energy) Standards, Production Tax Credits, Investment Tax Credits and the energy title of the farm bill, among others.
But let’s take a moment and reflect on just what these tools are designed to produce. Cumulatively, they power this nation’s drive to a clean energy future that boosts our economy by providing jobs and widening the tax base; enhances our national security by reducing our reliance on oil from nations with volatile – or even hostile – regimes; and improves our environment by offering energy choices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions into our warming atmosphere.
Nine years ago, the 25x’25 Alliance launched with a vision that America’s farms, ranches and forest lands could meet 25 percent of our nation’s energy needs from renewable resources by 2025. The campaign undertaken by the Alliance to promote those policies and innovations that help the nation achieve the 25x’25 vision have produced not only strong, but demonstrably accelerated progress to that goal.
A look at the various technologies that give us the clean and powerful alternatives to conventional energy show an increasingly rapid growth that make the 25x’25 goal not only viable, but virtually assured. DOE Energy Information Administration (EIA) figures show the renewable energy share of total U.S. energy production from 2004 to 2012 grew by 46 percent and now makes up 11.2 percent of all energy produced. And the latest EIA monthly energy report shows that renewables generated more than 14 percent of all electrical power during the first six months of this year.
Energy from biomass has grown 51 percent from 2004 to 2012. Ethanol production over the same eight years grew by more than 300 percent and biodiesel by an astounding 4,000 percent (nearly doubling every year), offering consumers much wider, less expensive choices at the pump that significantly reduce the total emissions of motor fuels.
Electricity from wind facilities has grown more than 860 percent over the eight-year period, while solar photovoltaic power jumped an average 17 percent each year to grow a total of nearly 240 percent over the eight years. Geothermal and hydroelectric power production has grown modestly over the time period and remains a strong part of our national energy supply.
The consulting firm, Ernst and Young, says renewable energy projects in the United States experienced a banner year in 2012, with wind deployment adding a record 13,124 megawatts (MW) of capacity and solar adding 3,313 MW of solar photovoltaic capacity. Furthermore, the firm says, U.S. deployment of clean energy technology continues to rise, with renewables accounting for close to 50 percent of all added energy capacity.
Companies and communities across the United States announced at least 58 clean energy and clean transportation projects in the second quarter of 2013 that could create as many as 38,600 jobs, according to a report released this week by the nonprofit business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2). The Q2 2013 total number is slightly higher than the 37,400 jobs that E2 tracked in the comparable quarter in 2012 and reflects the ongoing growth of the sectors and the economic benefits they provide.
Another example of the economic benefits of renewable energy: the wind sector employs more than 80,000 Americans, including workers at manufacturing facilities up and down the supply chain, as well as engineers and construction workers who build wind installations.
The progress that’s being made in the renewable energy sector is the kind of news that needs to be shared widely. 25x’25 is organizing in-state value-chain partner meetings with members of Congress, including one led earlier this month by Steering Committee member Ron Heck with Sen. Chuck Grassley at the Iowa State Fair. The senator heard from bankers, equipment dealers and other value chain leaders who talked of the strong tie between biofuels and agricultural prosperity. One employer said he had six people working for him making six-figure incomes, while another said he has a diesel mechanic who makes more than his lawyer!
While 25x’25 continues its outreach effort, stakeholders can, and should, reach out on their own and share the good news of how our clean energy future is coming into view, not only with policy makers, but with consumers. Machinery and seed companies, bankers, car and truck dealers, school boards and others who contribute to and benefit from the forward march of clean energy should make it their mission to share the good news of what renewable energy has done for their communities, their state and our nation We’ve come too far to let our hard earned prosperity slip away. Onward to a 25x’25 future!