What if Alabama Democrats would lead the charge for creating 50,000 new jobs, gaining Alabama energy independence, and empowering local communities all by one set of policies?
It can be done and now is the time to strike. Of course, the Republican leadership and their corporate sponsors would never let this happen, however, Alabama Democrats will be branded with for whatever we fight. Let next-generation energy and energy independence be one brand.
As I referenced here,
The United States is currently importing about 70 percent of its renewable energy systems and components,” said Phil Angelides, chairman of the Apollo Alliance. “If that trend continues, we stand to lose out on estimated 100,000 clean energy manufacturing jobs by 2015, and nearly 250,000 by 2030.
Currently, Alabama maintains no goals for renewable energy. Alabama Democrats must take the lead on this issue and propose forward-looking initiatives; the Republicans will continue to rant “Drill, baby, drill.”
This is no tree-hugger pipe dream. “There are no technological or economic barriers to converting the entire world to clean, renewable energy sources,” according to Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering. “It is a question of whether we have the societal and political will.”
We can look to other states, regions, and countries that have already experimented with various policies; we will not be proceeding blindly.
For example, we can look to Ontario for lessons.
Ontario enacted its Green Energy Act in 2009. Since its enactment, 30 companies have publicly announced plans to set up or expand manufacturing facilities in Ontario that produce equipment for wind or solar power projects. Ontario’s clean energy program is built around a strong commitment to local manufacturing and it has attracted as many as 43,000 new jobs at a reasonable cost per job. The two primary planks provide alternative energy producers preferable rates and a local-content rule. Ontario announced the approval of 184 renewable energy projects worth $8 billion under theis Feed-In Tariff program. The Ontario Green Energy Act includes these major components:
- A Feed-In-Tariff program, which allows individuals and companies to sell renewable energy — like solar, wind, water, biomass, biogas and landfill gas — into the grid at set rates.
- Domestic content requirements, which would ensure at large percentages (60%) of wind projects and solar projects be produced and manufactured in Ontario.
These two policies should be modified for implementation in the Alabama. (Several other countries and cities have employed the Feed-in Tariffs such as Germany, Vermont, Australia, Switzerland, Gainesville, Florida, and Sacramento, California.) For instance, the priority for wind and solar projects reflects Ontario’s region; Alabama might expand its list of priorities to include tidal, geo-thermal, hydro, and biomass because of our unique geographic.
In addition to these two policies, we should advocate that newly constructed government buildings be fitted with alternative energy with “buy-local” preferences for parts and equipment; old government buildings such as schools and jails can be retrofitted accordingly. We should follow the example of Lee County which has unveiled a roof-mounted, 36- panel, solar-powered system that will supply up to 90 percent of the hot water used at the county jail.
Finally, the feed-in tariff should be offered to anyone that is a renewable energy producer, no matter how small. Think 100,000 mini-power plants instead of a few centralized dams and nuclear plants. The goal would be that that majority of residences and small businesses will shift from mere energy consumption to actual energy production. This can be accomplished with the feed-in tariffs, net-metering, and on-site consumption rules.
The core of these policies would create a reason for alternative energy producers to locate to the Alabama and cause alternative parts manufacturers to locate to Alabama as well. For me, most importantly, it decentralizes energy production (no brown outs), builds greater resilience to our regional economies, and empowers ours local communities.