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Wind and Solar Create More Jobs When They’re Locally Owned, Report Finds

Yes! Magazine - 1 hour 23 min ago

Workers with San Francisco-based Everybody Solar install a photovoltaic system. Photo by Everybody Solar / Flickr.

At last month’s People’s Climate March, among the most popular signs were ones supporting renewable energy like wind and solar as the best way to avoid a climate catastrophe. And because of the urgency of the situation, it’s easy to think that we should be building up renewables as much as we can.

But, from an economic point of view, it turns out that not all renewable energy is created equal.

Locally owned projects are more likely to use local labor and materials, and borrow from local banks.

One main difference is between energy generators that are locally owned and ones owned by some faraway entity, and a new report from the Institute of Self-Reliance presents the details. The report, written by Senior Researcher John Farrell, makes two main points: Locally owned renewable energy projects create more economic benefits than absentee-owned projects, and they are less likely to encounter community opposition. By enacting policies to support local renewables, Farrell argues, states and counties stand to gain thousands of jobs and millions of dollars.

Farrell’s report presents striking data from an earlier study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which showed that wind power projects often provide twice as many jobs when they are locally owned. Farrell provides this example:

A 20-megawatt wind energy project built in Minnesota but owned by Spanish firm Iberdrola would add $20 million to the state’s economy and create about 10 long-term jobs. But if that same project were owned by Minnesota farmers or Kandiyohi Power Cooperative, it would create 20 long-term jobs and generate as much as $68 million in economic activity for the state.

The benefit to a local economy depends on various aspects of a project, such as its size, location, and the amount of local labor and materials used.

Why do locally owned projects create more jobs per megawatt? The National Renewable Energy Laboratory gives three reasons: They are more likely to use local labor and materials, provide benefits to local shareholders, and borrow from local banks.

A program in 2009 made it easier for projects to grow because it cut down the need for investors who take a cut of the profits.

These economic benefits could also be the reason that neighboring communities are more likely to support renewable energy projects when they are locally owned. Farrell points to a study published in the journal Energy Policy in 2011 that looked at two German towns, each with a wind farm on its outskirts. The locally owned wind farm received far friendlier reception from neighbors than the absentee-owned wind farm.

Farrell says that seeing locally owned projects get built changes residents’ impression of renewables and encourages them to think about how they can use renewable energy in their own lives.

“They realize this is real; it’s not a fanciful notion,” Farrell said. “People ask themselves ‘I wonder if I could do that?’”

Barriers to local ownership

With all these benefits on the table, you would think local entrepreneurs would be starting up wind and solar projects across the country. Yet, in 2007, just 2 percent of wind projects in the United States were locally owned, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

It turns out that federal and state policies make it difficult for locally owned projects to get off the ground. The federal Solar Investment Tax Credit, for example, rewards developers of solar projects by lowering the amount they owe in taxes. But because the program doesn’t provide any money up-front, it essentially requires entrepreneurs to have access to large amounts of capital before beginning a project.

While that may work for California’s BrightSource Energy, which receivesfinancing from companies like Google, Morgan Stanley, and Chevron Technology Ventures, it leaves most community owned projects behind. They can attempt to work around the rule by bringing in partners to provide capital—but these partners generally take a cut of the project’s revenue and diminish its ability to grow.

Locally owned projects create more economic benefits, and they are less likely to encounter community opposition

Congress took a step forward in 2009 with the 1603 Treasury Program. This took the Section 48 Investment Tax Credit, which rewarded larger renewable energy businesses, and converted the tax credits into cash grants. That made it easier for locally owned renewable energy projects to grow, but then the program expired in 2011.

In some cases, policies are better at the state level. In Minnesota, the Community Based Energy Development statute (CBED) requires utilities to support locally owned renewable energy projects. The statute allows qualified candidates to charge higher rates for electricity in their first 10 years. This gives them the opportunity to get off the ground and has accelerated the growth and development of 100 MW of community-owned wind energy in Minnesota over the last nine years, Farrell reports.

Further west, a Colorado law established “community solar gardens” and obligated utilities to buy power from them. These “gardens” are arrays of solar panels that utility customers can own a share of. If the solar garden produces more energy than its shareholders can use, they get a share of the earnings after the excess power is sold to the utility.

Ultimately, Farrell’s report points to exciting economic opportunities that are not too far out of reach. By enacting policies that encourage locally owned renewable energy projects, lawmakers can boost local and state economies while laying the foundation for a more stable climate.

Kayla Schultz wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Kayla is a graduate from Central Michigan University, where she studied creative writing and journalism. She is an online editorial intern at YES!

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Categories: Ecological News

Global Economy Inches Upward as Environmental and Social Concerns Mount

World Watch - 6 hours 49 min ago

New Worldwatch Institute analysis examines global economic trends and associated challenges

For Immediate Release | October 23, 2014 | CONTACT GAELLE GOURMELON

Notes to Editors:     

Journalists may obtain a complimentary copy of "Global Economy Inches Upward as Environmental and Social Concerns Mount"  by contacting Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org

About the Worldwatch Institute:

Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute’s State of the World report is published annually in more than a dozen languages. For more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.

About Vital Signs Online:

Vital Signs Online provides business leaders, policymakers, and engaged citizens with the latest data and analysis they need to understand critical global trends. It is an interactive, subscription-based tool that provides hard data and research-based insights on the sustainability trends that are shaping our future. All of the trends include clear analysis and are placed in historical perspective, allowing you to see where the trend has come from and where it might be headed. New trends cover emerging hot topics-from global carbon emissions to green jobs-while trend updates provide the latest data and analysis for the fastest changing and most important trends today. Every trend includes full datasets and complete referencing. Visit http://vitalsigns.worldwatch.org to subscribe today to Vital Signs Online.

Visit our Vital Signs Online website for a preview of this trend analysis

Washington, D.C.— Nationalprogress is often measured almost exclusively by growth in the gross domestic product, or GDP. Yet as the global economy inches upward, actual social and environmental well-being lags. Alternative measures for gauging progress are needed to determine true prosperity, write Worldwatch’s Mark Konold and Climate and Jacqueline Espinal in the Institute’s latest Vital Signs analysis (bit.ly/VSOEcon).

Growing economy. The global economy grew moderately (at 4.49 percent) in 2013, resulting in a total combined GDP of $87 trillion for all countries in the world. Emerging markets accounted for a large part of the growth (representing 50 percent of the total), as an affluent middle class formed and young workers migrated into cities, encouraging business investment in developing countries. 

Growing inequality. Even as the global economy picks up, however, social challenges continue to mount. According to the United Nations Development Programme, average household income inequality in recent decades has risen in both industrial and developing countries. One billion out of 7 billion people live below poverty levels and experience most acutely the dark side of development, such as global climate change, water depletion, food shortages, and biodiversity destruction.

There also continued to be labor shortages, increased globalization, and mismatches between current skill levels and job requirements. Developing countries were faced with a growing pool of willing workers in 2013, but limited access to credit for many small enterprises contributed to a lack of investment and job creation in these markets. In 2013, nearly 202 million people worldwide were unemployed, a 6 percent unemployment rate.

Growing consumption. World population is expected to reach 9.6 billion people by 2050, with much of that expansion happening in developing countries. As the world’s population continues to grow, there is legitimate concern about depleting Earth’s resources faster than they can be replenished. The Global Footprint Network, an agency that tracks humanity’s ecological footprint and nature’s capacity to replenish its resources, estimates that the world is consuming resources at the rate of 1.5 planets per year.

Some studies have argued that the world must replace its growth economy with a steady-state economy, in which production is only replaced, not increased, while the economy continues to develop by improving and renewing its existing resources.

Measuring true progress. Studies suggest that although people’s level of happiness increases significantly when societies develop, high levels of uncertainty and social and economic inequality may run counter to this development. Measures such as the Genuine Progress Indicator account for the social, educational, economic, and environmental activities that contribute to economic growth but that go unnoticed in current national accounting frameworks.

Regional Highlights:

  • Although employment rates improved in the United States in 2013, much of the improvement is attributed to fewer people participating in the labor force—mainly newly retired Baby Boomers.
  • In the United States, Baby Boomers—individuals born between 1945 and 1965—continued to retire at an approximate rate of 10,000 per day. It is expected that in retirement, Boomers reduce their levels of disposable income, leading to a decrease in economic growth by as much as 0.7 percent.
  • In Japan, GDP growth between 2000 and 2013 shrank by 0.6 percentage points annually due to an aging population retiring from the workforce.
  • Worldwide, employment rates declined in all regions except South and East Asia, which continued to experience higher levels of growth through 2013. 

—END—

The full data and analysis are available for purchase through our Vital Signs Online website.

Notes to Editors: Journalists may obtain a complimentary copy of "Global Economy Inches Upward as Environmental and Social Concerns Mount" by contacting Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org.

 

Categories: Ecological News

S.F. Fire Department joins study into breast cancer risks.

Environmental Health News - 9 hours 4 min ago
When San Francisco firefighters rush out the firehouse doors,they put their lives on the line in more ways than one. In responding to roughly 28,000 fire calls a year, firefighters are routinely exposed to flame retardants, diesel exhaust and other toxic chemicals.
Categories: Ecological News

Oregon agencies blew off complaints, red flags before helicopter sprayed weed killers on residents.

Environmental Health News - 9 hours 4 min ago
For years, residents of the winding valleys along the Rogue River in southwestern Oregon complained to state agencies about the helicopters spraying weed killers on clearcuts next to their homes.
Categories: Ecological News

Environment is grabbing big role in ads for campaigns.

Environmental Health News - 9 hours 4 min ago
Ads mentioning energy, climate change and the environment — over 125,000 spots and climbing on the Senate side — have surged to record levels during the 2014 midterm election cycle, reflecting the priorities of some of the nation’s wealthiest donors, with Democrats now pouring millions into campaigns to match Republicans.
Categories: Ecological News

Mine wasn't source of orange sludge, Arizona agency says.

Environmental Health News - 9 hours 4 min ago
Contrary to what a federal official and environmentalists have said, an old Patagonia Mountains mine overseen by the state environmental agency didn't spew orange sludge pollution into a neighboring stream last month, the agency said Tuesday.
Categories: Ecological News

Asian carp DNA detected in Green Bay's Fox River.

Environmental Health News - 9 hours 4 min ago
Wisconsin officials said Tuesday that Asian carp DNA has been found in the Fox River in downtown Green Bay, a discovery that gives scientists the newest genetic evidence of invasive fish in the Lake Michigan basin.
Categories: Ecological News

Toxic influence: Europe must act to stop livestock drugs from wiping out its vulture populations.

Environmental Health News - 9 hours 4 min ago
A dead vulture in Spain could herald a crisis for raptor populations, because a drug that has killed hundreds of thousands of birds and driven some species to the brink of extinction in Asia now threatens to do the same in Europe.
Categories: Ecological News

Ham scramble: Southern delicacy companies struggle to replace methyl bromide.

Environmental Health News - 9 hours 4 min ago
For more than 30 years, Sam Edwards – like many country ham producers – has used a single chemical to keep critters from infesting high-value hocks. That chemical, methyl bromide, is being phased out because it is one of the most potent compounds depleting the Earth’s protective ozone layer. The nation’s country ham producers are hanging on as they scramble to find a pest-killing alternative.
Categories: Ecological News

Republicans would target EPA power plant, ozone, water rules if Senate changes hands.

Environmental Health News - 9 hours 4 min ago
With fall elections just two weeks away, Republicans may be on the verge of wresting control of the Senate from Democrats who have blocked efforts to roll back environmental rules on carbon dioxide pollution from power plants, ozone and expanded Clean Water Act jurisdiction over U.S. waterways.
Categories: Ecological News

US revisiting 'broken' workplace chemicals regulation process.

Environmental Health News - 9 hours 4 min ago
The U.S. government will soon begin receiving public suggestions on how federal regulators should update their oversight of toxic chemicals in the workplace.
Categories: Ecological News

Pollution choking China's inbound tourism industry.

Environmental Health News - 9 hours 4 min ago
China's inbound tourism market is still struggling to bounce back in the midst of rising concerns about issues such as air pollution, according to a new report from the China Tourism Academy.
Categories: Ecological News

Hebei orders factory shutdowns to stop smog casting pall over Apec.

Environmental Health News - 9 hours 4 min ago
Hebei province will idle more than 800 polluting factories for nearly two weeks to stop smog shrouding Beijing as world leaders visit the capital for next month's Apec summit.
Categories: Ecological News

High pollution levels found near Ohio gas wells.

Environmental Health News - 9 hours 4 min ago
A study in a rural Ohio county where oil and gas drilling is booming found air pollution levels near well sites higher than those in downtown Chicago.
Categories: Ecological News

'That stuff can get you so fast' - deadly gas on the rise in Texas oil fields.

Environmental Health News - 9 hours 4 min ago
Living with "sour gas" is an old story in West Texas, but it's beginning to happen in more oil-producing regions as the boom in onshore drilling pushes oil production into new places.
Categories: Ecological News

A 'very young field' of research tries to measure looming costs of ocean acidification.

Environmental Health News - 9 hours 4 min ago
While many of the effects of ocean acidification remain invisible, by the end of this century, things will have changed drastically. One estimate looking only at lost ecosystem protections, such as that provided by tropical reefs, cited an economic value of $1 trillion annually.
Categories: Ecological News

The problem with America’s abandoned mines.

Environmental Health News - 9 hours 4 min ago
A mine plans its death before its birth. The leftover waste from mines is so hazardous that mining companies must figure out what to do with it decades in advance, even before they start digging. That’s how it works today, at least.
Categories: Ecological News

Residents discuss fears of mine contamination in rural South Carolina.

Environmental Health News - 9 hours 4 min ago
When miners began digging out a small mountain near Clover, South Carolina, in 1947, few people around here realized the legacy the developing business would leave on their community in rural York County.
Categories: Ecological News

Battles rage in Oregon, Colorado over genetically-modified foods.

Environmental Health News - 9 hours 4 min ago
Voters in two Western states are caught in fierce battles over whether consumers will know what is deep inside their food. Oregon and Colorado on Nov. 4 will decide the fate of labeling laws for GMOs – the latest fronts in a battle over packaging.
Categories: Ecological News

The race is on to find organic pesticides.

Environmental Health News - 9 hours 4 min ago
The hunt for beneficial microbes comes amid regulatory scrutiny of man-made chemical insecticides.
Categories: Ecological News
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