Report finds renewable energy could accelerate economic recovery

5 Reasons for Renewable Energy

According to NAU researchers, Arizona is poised to take advantage of economic opportunities created through national legislation for many reasons, including:
Arizona has the best developable solar energy resource in the nation, and its solar supply chain and green-technology sectors have grown rapidly, even during the current economic recession.
Arizona’s state incentives and federal stimulus funds combined to attract several new renewable energy and energy efficiency component manufacturing or corporate facilities to the state in 2009.
Arizona hosts renewable energy research programs at all three of the state’s universities, and houses the headquarters of the nation’s largest thin-film solar panel manufacturer and largest small-wind turbine manufacturer.
Arizona has outstanding solar energy resources, and has developable wind, geothermal and biofuel resources.
Arizona has a Climate Change Action Plan, has performed a greenhouse gas emissions inventory and has defined policy initiatives to accelerate its path to a lower-carbon economy.

Climate change mitigation has the potential to change Arizona’s job market for the better, says a new report by researchers at Northern Arizona University.

The report, Economic Development Opportunities for Arizona in National Clean Energy and Climate Change Legislation completed by NAU’s Landsward Institute, states that Arizona could generate more than 50,000 construction-phase jobs, 4,000 permanent jobs and more than $10 billion in earnings and economic activity over the next decade under an aggressive, nationwide clean-energy development and climate change mitigation policy.

Additionally, the development of low-carbon or renewable energy sources alone could produce more than $700 million in annual earnings and economic activity.

“Electricity from renewable energy sources will be instrumental in shaping Arizona’s economic future,” said William Auberle, professor of civil and environmental engineering. “’Mining our sun and wind’ is an exciting and economically attractive prospect. Thus, most Arizonans, particularly those in rural parts of the state, should be excited at the findings of our research.”

A key element in the report is Arizona’s status as an energy-producing state. Arizona generates nearly 33 percent more electricity than is used in state and then exports it to other states. Most of the energy generated comes from coal-fired power plants.

“Limits on carbon emissions would shift demand away from fossil fuels, especially coal, and toward cleaner energy technologies,” said John Eastwood, lecturer of economics in The W.A. Franke College of Business. “Our study demonstrates how Arizona’s competitive advantage in renewable energy could be enhanced, creating opportunities for sustained economic growth.”

Researchers also note Arizona’s location in an area of the continental United States that will be “impacted soonest, most directly and most extremely by climate change.” That, coupled with Arizona’s population increase of 29 percent from 2000 to 2008, along with a population that is projected to grow to 12.8 million by 2050, may lead to a future of increased energy consumption that will not be sustainable.

The mitigation of climate change, aided by incentives from federal, state and tribal governments, places Arizona with its abundance of natural resources in an enviable position.

Karin Wadsack, a graduate student in Environmental Sciences and Policy and one of the report’s authors, summarizes, “Arizona already exports its energy to other states, but with clean energy legislation, Arizona could export even more clean energy to its neighbors while creating good, local clean energy jobs across the state.”

Auberle predicts that the money required to invest in renewable forms of electricity generation in Arizona will come from many sources—private energy developers, investor-owned electric suppliers in Arizona and other Western states, publicly owned electricity suppliers, tribal utilities, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

View the full report online.