Economic Development Using Green Energy as a Vehicle
By Jennifer Gose, Candidate NMHD 54
By now we are all aware of the major environmental, health, and economic impacts of the oil & gas industry. Many are questioning whether continuing to support this industry is a good idea.
In the Unites States, we subsidize… literally give tax dollars to the oil & gas industry to the tune of $26 BILLION dollars per year (Source: https://www.nrdc.org/experts/danielle-droitsch/time-us-end-fossil-fuel-subsidies) . Total revenue for oil & gas in the U.S. in 2019? 882.29 BILLION DOLLARS (Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/257417/top-10-oil-and-gas-companies-worldwide-based-on-revenue/).
There is exactly zero reason for us to give away OUR TAXES to private businesses who make 33 times in revenue the subsidy amount. These figures don’t even account for healthcare costs due to pollution, environmental remediation cost, etc. You get the idea.
Given this, one of my primary platform pieces is using renewable energy production to spur economic development especially in rural New Mexico.
According to The World Resources Institute (https://www.wri.org/blog/2017/02/states-use-renewable-energy-win-corporate-business):
“Advanced Energy Economy cites that nearly half of Fortune 500 companies have a sustainability or renewable energy target; 22 have committed to 100 percent renewable energy. These companies include Walmart, General Motors, Amazon and others who have also signed on to the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles.”
“Edison Energy reports that 72 percent of large companies headquartered in the United States are actively pursuing additional renewable energy purchases. For the foreseeable future, these large companies will continue to buy a substantial portion of their power from their local utility.”
Clearly, more and more large multi-location corporations are actively seeking and incentivizing not only themselves, but also municipalities and states to seek and support low or zero carbon renewable energy solutions.
The Guardian spoke with BP, a UK-based oil company about a renewable energy future. It is and continues to be the fastest growing energy sector of all time (https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/feb/14/renewable-energy-world-power-source-bp):
“The UK-based oil company said wind, solar and other renewables will account for about 30% of the world’s electricity supplies by 2040, up from 25% in BP’s 2040 estimates last year, and about 10% today.”
“While oil took almost 45 years to go from 1% of global energy to 10%, and gas took more than 50 years, renewables are expected to do so within 25 years in the report’s central scenario.”
“Renewables are expected to grow by 7.1% each year over the next two decades, eventually displacing coal as the world’s top source of power by 2040.”
These are astonishing, gob-smacking growth rates.
Case Study: Renewable energy economic boom in the rural Midwest (https://www.nrdc.org/experts/arjun-krishnaswami/renewable-energy-brings-economic-boost-rural-communities):
“Rural areas of the Midwest gained 2.2 gigawatts (GW) of new wind capacity in 2017…Wind developers often pay landowners to host wind turbines, providing farmers and ranchers with a consistent source of additional income while still allowing them to use these lands for farming as well. Wind farms provide $245 million every year in lease payments to farmers and ranchers for hosting wind turbines. Within the Midwest, rural landowners in Iowa, Illinois, and Kansas receive more than $10 million annually from wind leases. Farmers and ranchers in North Dakota, Minnesota, and Indiana receive between $5 million and $10 million.
Wind energy projects also provide a new source of tax revenues for local governments, which can be invested into school districts and economic development projects. For example, in Colfax, Illinois, a town of 1,000 people, new wind projects increased the property tax base from $61 million in 2006 to $102 million in 2008. This new revenue allowed the local schools to fund new projects, pay off debt, and weather the 2008 recession.
Wind projects are also magnets for further investment. Businesses from around the country are flocking to the rural Midwest to build data centers and other facilities that will run on clean energy. Corporations drawn to an area because of cheap, clean electricity create local jobs and greater local economic activity. These new industries can also drive further tax revenue and infrastructure improvements.”
Renewables also drive down utility costs ESPECIALLY in rural areas:
“Rural areas are also experiencing new growth in solar energy. Jobs in the solar industry make up more than 45 percent of the renewable energy jobs throughout the Midwest. Rural electric cooperatives (co-ops), which are utilities owned by their customers, have taken great strides to bring solar energy to more rural communities. Co-ops have especially taken advantage of one great avenue for expanding solar access: community solar programs.
Community solar programs allow participants to buy a share of a solar project and then benefit from the electricity generated. These projects bring solar energy to people who cannot or do not want to install their own rooftop solar panels. This can apply to homeowners who can’t afford the large up-front costs or have rooftops that are shaded or inconveniently oriented. It can also benefit those who don’t own their home and can’t alter their roofs. More and more rural areas are subscribing to community solar programs, with more than 190 co-ops offering community solar in 31 states. When designed properly, community solar programs can address many of the barriers that prevent households from adopting solar and, in doing so, can reduce electricity bills and lower household energy burden—which is especially high for rural families.”
And as for spurring innovation and business / job creation:
“Solar energy projects are also enabling other economic benefits. For example, the Farmers Electric Cooperative in Kalona, Iowa, generates 15 percent of its power from solar energy and distributes 2.5 kilowatts (kW) per member. That’s more locally produced energy per customer than any other utility in the country has been able to achieve. The cooperative has also encouraged smart financial investments in the area. Farmers Electric bought nine acres of vacant land for a 1.7-MW solar farm. The original landowners then invested the income from the sale in a nearby facility for four new businesses. All four businesses now purchase electricity from the solar farm.
We have a golden opportunity here. We can wrest our future away from an industry that pollutes, kills, maims and destroys for one that is clean, prosperous, and healthy for both people and planet.
We have an opportunity to reject an industry that uses places and people up and then discards them. We have an opportunity to craft how we want to live in this state. We are not beholden to the extractive industries. They are beholden to us.
All we need is the will to embrace change. All we need is the will to say no.
Join me and let’s build hope. Let’s build health. Let’s build a thriving economy with renewable energy at its core.
We can do this. Together.