The nation’s past energy policy has left Americans exposed to both volatile energy prices and traditional sources of electricity. The growing national determination is that more renewable energy sources must be used. In addition, many policy makers are pressing for an accelerated move toward vehicle electrification as a means to improve both our national energy and economic security by diminishing our reliance on imported oil. However, the nation’s failure to build significant new electric transmission and foster the consolidation of broad regional markets has not only limited the use of the nation’s premier renewable energy resources, it has left consumers captive to the higher prices of smaller local electricity markets while undermining electric grid reliability.
The confluence of these issues means that our states and the nation must move to expand wind energy development. Wind energy is a clean, abundant, and affordable source of energy — and it is available and deployable now. In fact, 42 percent of all new power plants installed in the nation in 2008 are powered by the wind. A recent assessment of wind’s prospects and impacts released by the U.S. Department of Energy concluded that the United States could supply 20 percent of the nation’s electricity needs through wind by 2030. This assessment and related analyses found achieving this goal would:¹
- Support roughly 500,000 good quality jobs in the U.S. — with an annual average of more that 150,000 workers directly employed by the wind industry;²
- Enable significant wind power development in 46 states, and support substantial employment in all states;
- Result in energy-related cost savings to the nation ranging from $100 billion to $250 billion through 2030, offsetting by several times the estimated incremental cost of about $40 billion;
- Reduce electric-sector greenhouse gas emissions by about 25 percent, relative to a scenario with no new wind additions;
- Reduce electric sector natural gas and coal consumption by 50 percent and 18 percent, respectively; and avoid construction of 80,000 MW of new coal plants;
- Reduce electric-sector water consumption over 15 percent by 2030, with nearly one third of the reduction in the arid western states; and
- Increase annual property tax revenues and rural landowner payments to more than $1.5 billion and $600 million, respectively, by 2030.
The assessment also concluded that 20 percent electricity from wind and the associated benefits would not be realized in a business-as-usual scenario. Investment in the nation’s electrical transmission infrastructure would be needed, as well as continued investment in wind power technology. Siting and environmental issues would need to be addressed efficiently and promptly.
In addition, the assessment showed that the 20 percent goal could be met using only a small fraction of the nation’s available and developable wind resources. Hence wind’s contribution could easily exceed 20 percent over time, especially in light of new emerging markets for electricity such as nighttime charging of electric vehicles.
Working rapidly toward this goal with supportive policies will spur investments that create thousands of good jobs that are critical to stabilizing our states’ and the nation’s economy. It will also reduce total consumer energy costs over time, diminish our dependence on foreign oil, decrease the trade deficit, and lessen carbon emissions. The Coalition is working toward this end.
¹20% Wind Energy by 2030, U.S. Department of Energy, DOE/GO-102008-2567, July 2008; available at www.20percentwind.org.
²“Power System Modeling of 20 %Wind-Generated Electricity by 2030,” M. Hand et al, Proceedings of IEEE Power Engineering Society General Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA, July 2008; available at http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy08osti/42794.pdf