Public Study Touts Washington Wind

According to a report released by the Washington Public Interest Research Group (WashPIRG), energy efficiency and wind power have the potential to provide major economic benefits for Washington state while helping to ensure a more reliable and affordable energy supply.

Spokane, Washington – June 10, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] The report, entitled Energy for Washington’s Economy, Economic Development from Energy Efficiency and Wind Power in Washington, examines the economic impact of meeting the state’s projected energy demand by increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies instead of building new natural gas plants beyond those that have already been permitted. “This report provides overwhelming evidence that renewable energy and energy efficiency have the potential to provide an incredible economic boost to our state,” said Robert Pregulman, executive director of WashPIRG. “At the same time, these technologies will ensure a more stable and affordable energy supply for Washington consumers and businesses.” Currently, natural gas plants totaling 2818 MW have been permitted or are under construction in Washington. In addition, another 3862 MW have been proposed. The report shows that, by 2020, if energy companies installed enough wind turbines to produce 1700 MW of energy by 2020 and reduced energy consumption by 12 percent through increased energy efficiency, they could avoid building the 3862 MW of proposed natural gas plants while generating more jobs, more tax dollars, and more revenue for rural landowners. Specifically, the report found that, by 2020: o Wind energy could generate US$371 million in property taxes as compared to US$192 million by natural gas plants. That’s twice as much revenue for half the capacity (1700 MW vs. 3400 MW). o Wind energy could generate US$103 million in revenue for rural landowners. Natural gas would generate no revenue for rural landowners. o Wind energy and efficiency could create 2.5 times as much employment as natural gas plants. o Wind energy and efficiency could conserve approximately 31 billion gallons of water as generating power from natural gas uses large amounts of water for steam and cooling. “American agriculture abounds with potential sources of renewable energy,” said J. Read Smith, a farmer from St. John, Wash. and past president of the National Association of Conservation Districts. “Developing these sources will not only provide our country with reliable, domestic energy supplies, but also will help to economically stabilize rural American and our nation’s farms and ranches in a clean, sustainable way.” The report also emphasized that increases in wind energy and energy efficiency would be cost effective for Washington consumers and businesses. Because wind power has no fuel costs, it can serve as a hedge against volatile natural gas prices, which skyrocketed during the 2000-01 energy crisis and continue to be unstable. Also, increasing our use of energy efficiency technologies means that we don’t have to rely as much on natural gas or energy trading companies to meet our energy needs. And, by reducing energy bills for consumers and businesses, efficiency keeps more money in local economies. “Energy conservation significantly improves local economics,” said Mark Longmeier, president of Spokane-based NW Energy Services, Inc. “For every one average MW of energy resource obtained from conservation, investments on the order of US$2.5 million dollars will be made in local economies for professional services, materials and supplies, and labor. These investments will reduce costs of local business and improve their ability to compete, enhance the local tax base, and keep the spent dollars in the local economy.” Clean energy is poised to take advantage of growing opportunities in Washington. A recent survey conducted by the Washington Department of Community, Trade, and Economic Development found that at least 274 firms in Washington identified their primary business activity as energy efficiency or renewable energy. These industries generate nearly US$1 billion in annual revenue, employ nearly 4,000 people, and deliver US$160 million in wages. The report recommended that the state adopt the following policies to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency: 1. An energy conservation standard requiring all retail electricity supplies to meet a minimum percentage of future power needs with energy conservation. 2. A renewable energy standard requiring all retail electricity supplies to obtain a minimum percentage of their electricity from new renewable sources. 3. No new permits for fossil fuel-based power plants beyond the 21 permits that have recently been granted. 4. Tax incentives for equipment used in wind farm construction or reduced property tax rates for wind energy facilities. “Washington is at a critical crossroads in developing its energy policy,” concluded Pregulman. “It is clear that increased investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency is better than natural gas for the economy, businesses, and consumers. The question is, will utilities take advantage of the incredible economic benefits of these technologies, or will they take us down the path of increased reliance on natural gas?”

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