Renewable Energy Policies Should Put Rural Communities First

By some estimates, the next 20 years could generate as much as US $1 trillion in new investment in renewable energy for rural America, but a new Ford Foundation-sponsored study by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) argues that current federal policies minimize the benefit of that investment to rural economies.

Existing federal policies encourage large-scale, absentee owned wind farms and biofuel plants, notes the report, Rural Power: Community-Scaled Renewable Energy and Rural Economic Development.

“By encouraging large-scale projects with significant transmission or transportation distances, federal policies reduce the potential for locally owned renewable energy projects,” explains ILSR researcher John Farrell, co-author of the report. “The premise is that ‘bigger is better,’ but the evidence suggests that the benefits of building big are small. The benefits of building small, on the other hand, are quite large.”

The report argues that locally owned wind and biofuels projects have a significantly higher beneficial local economic impact. They deliver more jobs than comparably sized absentee owned projects and return profits to local investors. Community and locally owned projects also minimize the need for long distance tranmission lines because they serve local and regional markets.

Rural Power provides a policy roadmap for states and the federal government that would encourage modest-sized renewable energy facilities and local ownership.

For more information on the report from the ILSR, click here.

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