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Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

Most U.S. States Can Be Energy Self-Reliant

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I’ve been sitting on this one for a while, but finally have the time to put up something.  I feel like I normally share bad climate- and energy-related news: ice sheets are melting faster than expected, temperatures are rising more than expected, new and dire effects are being discovered, Congress is stupidly delaying progress on legislation, etc.  There is plenty of good news in the climate and energy arena.  People are taking matters into their own hands and actually doing something, and it’s becoming commonplace that they’re doing much more than replacing light bulbs in their house.  This is one of those cases – but on a larger scale.

The New Rules Project in Minnesota released a second and updated edition of a report they originally issued in 2008, “Energy Self-Reliant States“.  In this expanded edition, each state is assessed for commercial potential, not technical potential, of renewable electricity.  The large picture: 64% of states can be self-sufficient in electricity from in-state renewables.  An additional 14% can generate 75% of their electricity within their own borders.  It argues for a decentralized energy approach, which makes the most sense to me.  Why depend on your neighbor for electricity when you don’t have to, whether that neighbor is the state next door or another country.  Keying on that decentralized approach, the report notes that 40 states could generate 25% of their electricity just with rooftop photovoltaic (PV) power.  Generating energy exactly where it is used is by far the best way to go.

You can go to the website I link to above and download the report to see results for your own state, read more about the methodology, etc.  I’m going to concentrate on my own state: Colorado.

Colorado is one of the most advantageous states when it comes to renewable energy potential for electricity.  The report classifies Colorado as being able to generate more than 1000% of our electricity from combined renewable resources (solar plus wind plus geothermal, etc. – note this does not include concentrated solar power, another potentially large source), based on 2007 usage, as seen in this figure:

That means, among other things, we could transfer most of our transportation sector to electricity-based quite easily.  Electric-based modes of transportation are much more efficient than any internal-combustion (dirty fuel) methods.

But more than that, this report (and others like it) clearly demonstrate that Cons like Josh Penry, who would do away with Gov. Ritter’s Energy Office, remain stuck in the mid-20th century.  Our energy infrastructure is antiquated, centralized and harmful to the planet.  Penry and his Con colleagues would rather keep Colorado and the U.S. in a recession, would rather keep Coloradans unemployed, would rather continue enslaving Coloradans to dirty energy from mega-corporations than do the smart thing and upgrade the sources, put people to work and clean up our act.

This report is good news for the nation.  It will take effort, but most states can become self-reliant on generating clean electricity in a relatively short time period.  People can train to do new jobs and be put to work in a New Energy Economy.  Our climate forcing can be reduced, more easily than many people think (or the Cons and dirty energy corporations want you to think).  So share this report with anyone who is unfamiliar with what can be done.  Regardless of their opinion on what should be done about climate change, producing our own energy locally is a non-partisan solution to our energy problems.

Cross-posted at SquareState.

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