By Ashok Gupta
As the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) listening tour comes to Kansas City, MO today, Midwesterners can voice their support for national strategy to fight climate change and a path towards cleaner, cheaper sources of energy.
The CPP would boost an already thriving Midwestern clean energy economy that is driven both by some of the country’s top renewable energy resources and the dropping price of wind and solar energy.
(One of three listening sessions nationwide on the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan is being held from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. today, February 21 at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Beacon Complex, 6501 Beacon Drive, Kansas City, MO. To attend, go to EPA. Find additional sessions here. Online comments can be made until April 26.)
The plan allows states to choose the best way to reach targets to cut harmful carbon pollution from the biggest source—coal and gas power plants. That means Midwest states can choose a path that includes investments in their abundant renewable energy resources to achieve the plan’s goal of reducing carbon pollution by roughly 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
Utilities are capitalizing on competitive wind energy prices
Utilities across the Midwest are racing to capitalize on cheap and reliable wind energy. Aside from Texas, which produces more electricity from wind than all but five countries in the world, Iowa led the pack in 2016, producing 36.6 percent of its total electricity generation from wind—the highest percentage of wind generation in the country. Iowa, Oklahoma, and Kansas all sourced more than 20 percent of their electricity from wind power during 2016, while the largest utility in Nebraska is on track to generate 40 percent of its power from wind by 2019.
Since renewable energy prices continue to drop, Great Plains states will continue to vie for leadership in this emerging economy. In the last quarter of 2017, the American Wind Energy Association reported that Oklahoma jumped to the number two spot for wind generation capacity, overtaking Iowa, which held that spot for several years.
Although Missouri’s energy mix includes a lot less renewable energy than most of its neighbors, that may not be the case for long. Missouri’s utilities are ramping up their investments in wind. Ameren Missouri, the state’s largest utility, recently announced a substantial investment in renewable energy projects that would take the company’s share of wind to at least 10 percent of their portfolio – more than a nine-fold increase in three years.
The same is true of Nebraska, another historically coal-reliant state, where Omaha Public Power District—the state’s largest utility—will bring enough wind generation online by 2020 that half of all its electricity sales will come from renewable resources.
If you look at the projects that utilities are queueing up for future deployment in MISO and SPP—the wholesale electricity markets that cover most of the Midwest—about 90 percent of all new projects are either wind or solar farms.
The Clean Power Plan is good for business
When you get down to it, the CPP is good for business, it creates jobs and is in line with the ambitious clean energy goals of some of the world’s largest corporations. The Midwest is home to over 80,000 renewable energy jobs, more than the entire country’s coal mining workforce.
In Missouri, Walmart, General Motors and Anheuser Busch have made commitments to power their operations with 100-percent renewable energy in the near future. Budweiser is switching all domestic beer brewing to renewable electricity and is launching a new label this spring that indicates that Bud is brewed with 100 percent renewables. States have a competitive advantage when they can meet the demand for renewable energy from a long list of manufacturers, data centers and corporations.
In the Midwest, the trend is clear; the transition to clean energy is underway and will only intensify in the future. Having a strong national strategy to cut carbon pollution that provides states the flexibility to implement their own plans based on their resources is our best chance at fighting climate change and creating a path towards cleaner, cheaper and more reliable energy.
Ashok Gupta is a senior energy economist for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).