South could use more renewable energy, pay less

Southern states could generate 30 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and biomass by 2030 (up from four percent today) while saving millions of dollars, according to a study, “Renewable Energy in the South,” released in mid-December by researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Duke University (pdf).

“While the South enjoys some of the lowest electricity rates in the country, there is resistance to developing new technologies that seem much more costly than coal based electricity,” said Etan Gumerman of Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and a co-lead researcher on the study. “In reality, that’s not the case.”

According to the report's Executive Summary:

“Policy makers in some Southern states oppose renewable electricity standards because they believe their renewable resources are insufficient. The purpose of this report is to provide an up- to-date assessment of the economic potential for expanding renewable electricity generation in the South …

“The expanded tax credits, technology improvements, and updated renewable resource estimates that comprise the Expanded Renewables”– scenario would have favorable impacts on electricity rates and utility bills. … [A]verage electricity rates in the South are forecast to rise for all users by 23% in the EIA Reference case (from 7.9 cents/kWh in 2010 to 9.7 cents/kWh in 2030). In contrast, the average electricity rate in the region in the Expanded Renewables scenario would rise by only 16% over the two decades, to 9.0 cents/kWh.”

There's more–a lot more (190 pages)–but the bottom line is expressed above: the Southern U.S. has extensive renewable energy resources and they can be developed more economically than many people suppose.

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