New Report Shows Significant Potential for Renewable Energy in South

Federal Policies Can Spur Renewable Energy Growth In the South

The South could generate 20-30 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources within the next 20 years – up from less than 4 percent today -- if strong federal policies are enacted, according to a report released today by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Duke University. The analysis, “Renewable Energy in the South,” finds that conventional wisdom has underestimated the available renewable resources in the region and that a federal renewable electricity standard (RES) would enable the South to capitalize on this untapped renewable energy potential.

Read the Full Report Here: http://www.spp.gatech.edu/aboutus/workingpapers/renewable-energy-in-the-south

The South lags behind all other regions in renewable electricity, obtaining 3.7 percent of its power from renewable sources, compared to 9.5 percent for the country as a whole. Only four states (Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, and Texas) have a state-level renewable portfolio standard, while three others have voluntary renewable energy goals.  The fate of renewables in the South is not only important for the region, but for the nation as a whole since, in 2008, the region accounted for 44 percent of the country’s energy consumption.

Opponents of renewable energy production claim that the South lacks the renewable energy resources to capitalize on the growing demand for clean energy.  However, the report finds that there are abundant renewable energy resources available that can be tapped if supportive policies are put in place. The report shows that if a 25 percent (by 2025) federal RES is enacted, the amount of electricity supplied by power companies from renewable sources could increase more than 250 percent above the level expected in 2030 if no new federal renewables policies were enacted.

A number of other studies have shown a large potential for renewable energy in the South,” said Etan Gumerman of Duke University’s Nicholas Institute and co-lead researcher of the study.  “Our study shows that significant increases can actually be achieved, particularly through supportive local or federal policies.”

The report, using a customized version of the economic modeling system used by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, finds that a federal renewable electricity standard and carbon pricing system would increase the proportion of electricity derived from renewable sources by power companies in every state, particularly in wind and biomass. By 2030, the report shows, federal carbon pricing policy would increase renewable electricity production in the South by 390 percent.

“Countries around the world are already tapping into the potential of renewable energy, and are capturing export markets and generating jobs in the process,” said Dr. Marilyn Brown of the Georgia Institute of Technology and co-lead researcher of the study.  “The report demonstrates that although many states in the South are off to a slow start, renewable initiatives are now underway across the region, and the potential for expansion is promising.”  

In addition, the report finds that electricity produced by end-users, such as households and businesses using small-scale solar electric and heating facilities, would also benefit from federal policies and could supply a substantial portion of the region’s renewable electricity.  Under a 25 percent RES, for example, renewable electricity supplied by utilities and end-users could increase by 154 percent. Carbon pricing policy could lead to a 266 percent increase above the total level of renewable electricity expected in the absence of federal policy changes.

“In the future, households and businesses have the potential to become major suppliers of clean, renewable electricity,” added Dr. Brown.  “This changes the way we need to think about the South’s renewable energy potential.”

About Dr. Marilyn Brown and Georgia Tech:

Dr. Marilyn Brown, a professor in the School of Public Policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology, is an internationally-recognized leader in the analysis and interpretation of energy futures in the United States. In 2007, Brown was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize along with the other members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Vice President Al Gore. Additional information about Brown and her research can be found at http://www.spp.gatech.edu/faculty/faculty/mbrown.php.  Brown has been nominated to serve on the Board of the Tennessee Valley Authority and awaits confirmation.   

Georgia Tech’s Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts offers one of the world’s top public policy programs. The research-intensive and globally engaged curriculum aims to solve complex problems in the public interest related to issues of research and technology, energy and sustainability, economic development and governance. The School of Public Policy is dedicated to scholarship and learning that is reflective, effective and sustainable.

About Etan Gumerman and Duke University’s Nicholas Institute:

Etan Gumerman is a scientific engineer at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University.  Prior to joining the Nicholas Institute, Gumerman was employed by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and served as the lead modeler and analyst for the Scenarios for a Clean Energy Future Project.  In this role, Gumerman coordinated the efforts of scientists at five national laboratories.  

The Nicholas Institute is a nonpartisan institute founded in 2005 to help decision makers in government, the private sector, and the nonprofit community address critical environmental challenges. The Institute responds to the demand for high-quality and timely data and acts as an “honest broker” in policy debates by convening and fostering open, ongoing dialogue between stakeholders on all sides of the issues and providing policy-relevant analysis based on academic research. The Institute’s leadership and staff leverage the broad expertise of Duke University as well as public and private partners worldwide. Since its inception, the Institute has earned a distinguished reputation for its innovative approach to developing multilateral, nonpartisan, and economically viable solutions to pressing environmental challenges