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Pacific Northwest is taking a leadership role in the clean energy sectors

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The Pacific Northwest, including the states of Washington and Oregon, has proven to be a regional leader in the development of renewable energy resources for a new U.S. energy future, and can serve as a model for other regions around the country.

The Pacific Northwest, including the states of Washington and Oregon, has proven to be a regional leader in the development of renewable energy resources for a new U.S. energy future, and can serve as a model for other regions around the country. To underscore the importance of the Northwest, the National 25x’25 Steering Committee met  in Seattle in late September to discuss with state and local leaders the challenges and opportunities inherent in meeting the region’s clean energy strategy.


A prime example of that strategy is evidenced in the latest annual study conducted by the Renewable Northwest Project (RNP), in which the advocacy group says that in the ten years since the first Northwest utilities began offering voluntary “green power” programs, participation has grown to nearly 150,000 customers. These customers now support 150 MW of green power.


Green power programs give consumers the option of supporting additional electricity production from renewable resources by investing in solar, wind and biomass sources of energy. More than 600 utilities across the United States offer these programs, and in the latest ranking from the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory of green power program sales, three of the top 10 programs are offered by utilities in the Northwest. Green power programs are commitments to public service that help stem climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They also provide long-term price stability and energy security. So, when a utility invests in a wind farm, it is also investing in a cleaner source of energy, hedging against the fluctuating costs of fossil fuels and future restricting on carbon emissions.


In addition to Green Power programs, the Pacific Northwest is taking a leadership role in the clean energy sectors. A study done by Climate Solutions, a regionally based clean energy advocacy group, says Washington and Oregon offer significant job growth (some 40,000 to 60,000 new jobs by 2025) in five clean energy sectors: solar photovoltaic manufacturing, green building design services, wind power development, sustainable bioenergy and smart grid technologies.


Public policy in the region has complemented green power programs and is enabling the healthy growth of a clean energy economy. Washington has had on its books since 2001 a measure that requires all electric utilities with more than 25,000 meters to offer their customers a voluntary choice to purchase electricity from qualified renewable energy resources. And in 2006,, Washington voters approved an initiative that requires the 17 largest utilities to acquire 15 percent of their electricity from new renewable energy sources by 2020, and to invest in all cost-effective energy efficiency. The initiative is expected to support the development of 1,300 average megawatts of new renewable energy, which is enough to meet the needs of 930,000 average homes.


A decade ago, Oregon adopted a measure that required the state’s two investor-owned utilities to offer their customers at least one renewable power option. In 2007, the Oregon Legislature required the state’s three largest utilities to acquire 25 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2025. In addition, smaller Oregon utilities must meet targets of 5 percent or 10 percent by 2025. The law is expected to ultimately support the development of 1,500 average megawatts of new renewable energy, enough energy to meet the needs of 1.25 million average homes.


The Northwest offers solid, on-the-ground examples of renewable energy development that boost the economy, enhance our national security and improve our environment. The Steering Committee is touring a number of these projects, from Snohomish County’s Farm-Grown Fuel Project (the county began converting its vehicle fleet to use a blend of biodiesel and petroleum diesel in 2005); to Qualco Energy in Tulalip, WA to observe an anaerobic digester; to Puget Sound Energy’s Wild Horse Wind and Solar facility in Ellensburg, WA; to the City of Ellensburg’s community solar efforts.


With varied climate zones and geology, the Northwest possesses abundant solar, wind and geothermal resources that will be a critical part of the solution to the region’s struggle to accommodate rapid growth and the increasing public concern about where its electricity comes from. Policy makers in Washington and across the country can learn from their counterparts in the Northwest who embrace the vision and guiding principles that are driving the region to a clean energy future.

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Link to the original 25x'25 blog: http://blog.25x25.org/?p=1016

 

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