If you’ve been paying attention to federal energy policy in
the U.S. lately, you’ll know that the Clean Power Plan is back in the spotlight.
The Clean Power Plan (CPP) is the Environmental Protection
Agency’s rule designed to have states lower their carbon emissions from
existing power plants. It is seeking a national carbon reduction goal of 32
percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The Plan is currently on hold while the U.S.
Court of Appeals determines its legal standing.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit began hearing
oral arguments on the CPP last month, and pundits are volleying arguments in
support and opposition of the rule.
However, few people are talking about something exceptional:
many states are already on track to
meet their carbon reduction requirements. How can this be? The answer, it turns
out, is blowing in the wind.
The CPP sets an emission reduction target for each state and
gives them flexibility and responsibility for reaching that target via a State
Implementation Plan (SIP). This allows each state to assess its energy sources,
needs, and financial landscape so they can make a plan that works best for them.
Whatever the outcome, we know one thing to be true: electricity providers have
already begun the transition toward clean technologies.
Wind power has become one of the most cost-effective sources
of electricity generation in the nation. Due to siting and technology
improvements, the price consumers pay for wind power has dropped 66 percent
in the last 6 years. Simply put, wind power has become increasingly affordable.
Electric utilities have begun to take notice that wind power
is on-sale. In 2015, 8.5 gigawatts of wind energy were
installed in the U.S., more capacity than any other source of electricity
generation and 65 percent more than in 2014. And wind power doesn’t show any
signs of slowing down: 18,200 megawatts (MW) are currently under construction or
in advanced stages of development, and utilities are beginning to include more
wind energy in their integrated resource plans. Xcel Energy, the nation’s
leading electric utility provider of wind energy, recently released an RFP for
1,500 MW of additional wind and plans to reduce its carbon emissions by 60
percent by 2030 from 2005 levels, way beyond CPP requirements. Why? Because they have found wind to be the least-cost option for the future of their business. Their chief executive Ben
stated that wind power can act as a hedge against volatile future price
increases of natural gas. The wind industry is undergoing massive growth, and
it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.
From manufacturing and construction to regulation and
administration, the wind industry is putting Americans to work. The U.S. wind
employs 88,000 Americans, and wind technician is the fastest-growing
profession in the nation. A broad spectrum of careers are needed for the
electricity from a turbine to power your home – manufacturers make the steel
towers and the other 8,000 component parts of a turbine; scientists and
engineers are involved in project siting; shipping, rail, and trucking
companies deliver the blades; construction workers build towers, and don’t
forget about all the paperwork and finance-planning that goes into each project.
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On top of these
benefits, farmers hosting turbines on their land receive $222
million a year nationally in land-lease payments and wind developers contribute
substantial tax revenues toward rural communities. So it’s not hard to
understand why 91 percent
of Americans support expanding wind power. Choosing wind power to generate
our electricity doesn’t just mean lowering emissions and saving money on your
electric bill, it means supporting well-paying jobs and a bright economic
Seasons may come and go before the final outcome of the CPP
is determined, but the clean energy transition has already begun. Make no
mistake: we are at a tipping point where renewable energy technologies are
rapidly changing and ready to transition the U.S. into a clean energy economy,
but our policies will determine the pace at which we make that transition. Minnesota,
California, New York, and 16 other states have continued planning for their CPP
requirements, and their choice to embrace renewable technologies like wind
power will result in cheaper electricity, reduced carbon emissions, and a
stronger economy to benefit all Americans.
This article originally appeared in Morning Consult.