A federal standard requiring all utilities to obtain 25 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025 would create 297,000 new domestic jobs and save consumers $64.3 billion in lower electricity and natural gas bills, according to a new analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released today. The analysis also found that this renewable electricity standard would generate $13.5 billion in new income for farmers, ranchers and rural landowners, and reduce global warming pollution by 277 million metric tons a year by 2025, the equivalent of the annual output of 70 new, average-size, coal-fired power plants.
“A strong renewable electricity standard would help pull our economy out of the ditch by creating nearly 300,000 new jobs,” says Jeff Deyette, an analyst with the UCS Clean Energy Program and co-author of the study. “Our study found that, kilowatt-hour for kilowatt-hour, renewable energy generates more than three times as many jobs than fossil fuels, leading to a net job gain of 202,000. More renewable energy would mean more workers building wind turbines and installing solar panels here in the United States.”
The Obama administration supports a 25-percent-by-2025 standard, but there are two proposals in play in Congress. A bill targeting 25 percent by 2025 for most utilities has been introduced in the House by Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Todd Platts (R-Pa.), and in the Senate by Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.). Meanwhile, Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has introduced a bill calling for a 20-percent-by-2021 standard.
The UCS analysis, which used a modified version of the Department of Energy’s National Electricity Modeling System (NEMS), found that the standard would cut electricity bills for consumers across the country — including in the Southeast, where utilities have opposed a national standard. Increasing utilities’ reliance on renewable energy sources would diversify the electricity mix and increase competition in the energy market, reducing the demand for — and the cost of — fossil fuels. Under a 25 percent standard, electricity prices would be as much as 7.6 percent lower than business as usual between 2010 and 2030, the UCS analysis found. Ratepayers would save $95.5 billion by 2030.
“Americans are looking for ways to stretch their paychecks to make ends meet, and a 25 percent standard would certainly help,” says Alan Nogee, the UCS Clean Energy Program director. “A typical household would save nearly $70 in annual gas and electricity costs by 2025. Every little bit helps.”
Nogee emphasizes that a national standard would not create regional winners and losers. “Our analysis shows that all consumers would save, including those in the Southeast, where utilities have been misleading the public about the potential for renewables,” he says. “Ratepayers in the region collectively would save more than $13 billion by 2030. Instead of spending $1 billion each year to import coal from Colombia, Indonesia and Venezuela, the Southeast could keep those energy dollars in the regional economy by generating electricity with crop and forest residues and animal waste supplied by local landowners.”
In summary, the UCS analysis found that a 25-percent-by-2025 standard would:
- Create 297,000 new jobs — more than three times as many jobs from producing an equivalent amount of electricity from fossil fuels.
- Save ratepayers $64.3 billion by 2025 on their electricity and natural gas bills. Savings would grow to $95.5 billion by 2030. ($29.2 billion for households, $41.1 billion for businesses, and $25.2 billion for industrial customers.)
- Help stimulate an eightfold increase in domestic renewable energy power capacity, from 28,000 megawatts (MW) in 2007 to 148,000 MW by 2025.
- Generate $263.4 billion in new capital investment for renewable energy technologies; $13.5 billion for farmers, ranchers and rural landowners who produce biomass energy or lease their land for wind turbine construction; and $11.5 billion in new property tax revenue for local communities.
- Reduce global warming pollution by 277 million metric tons per year by 2025, equal to taking 45.3 million cars off the road or avoiding the output of 70 new, average-sized coal-fired power plants.
- Cut the amount of toxic power plant coal waste in slurry ponds by 511 million gallons by 2025. The slurry pond in Tennessee that broke last December dumped 1 billion gallons of coal ash sludge into a tributary of the Tennessee River.
“This is about modernizing and cleaning up our energy system,” says Marchant Wentworth, a UCS Clean Energy Program congressional liaison. “This is about jobs, and it's about saving people money. It's time to do what's right for the future of our energy system, our economy, and the planet. A strong renewable electricity standard puts us on the right path for all three.”
The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world. Founded in 1969, UCS is headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., and has offices in Berkeley, Calif., Chicago and Washington, D.C. For more information, visit the UCS website.