Thursday, January 17, 2013

Renewable energy could help rural economies more if state policies were more consistent, expert says

Renewable energy facilities other than hydroelectric plants, the oldest form of renewable, are producing 53 gigawatts of electricity, and most renewable energy production takes place in rural areas, Agri-Pulse reports. Renewables could lead to increased rural development, but only if legislators are sensitive to regional needs, University of Kentucky agricultural economist David Freshwater said in a recent National Association of Counties webinar reported by Agri-Pulse.

"If you just sort of focus on rural energy for the sake of, 'Look at all this money we can get to do this,' you're likely to make huge mistakes," Freshwater said, adding that proper implementation requires seeing it as an element in local economic-development strategies. He said it is unclear whether renewable energy would bring green jobs into rural communities because most of the research associated with renewable energy development focuses on urban areas.

Also, he said, inconsistent state policies on renewables prevent renewable-energy growth. "It's incredibly complex to coordinate state and federal renewable energy policy," he said, with several webinar participants adding that working from county to county was often difficult. Freshwater called for a "new rural paradigm" to address rural development that would be a broad approach and lead to "bottom-up operations" that aren't sector focused.

Thirty states and the District of Columbia have policies that require varying shares of electricity to come from renewables. Another seven have goals, but no penalties for failure to meet them. Some standards require only 5 percent of power to come from renewable sources, while others, like in California, require 33 percent. (North Carolina State University map)
Agri-Pulse is available by subscription only, but a free trial can be found here.

No comments: