Report: Greener energy policy could lead to more Iowa jobs

The Union of Concerned Scientists released a report stating that the Midwest has the potential to add 11,500 jobs, 7,300 in Iowa alone, if all the states updated their energy policies.

The report, “A Bright Future for the Heartland,” focuses on the energy policy recommendations made by the Midwestern Governor’s Association at an energy summit four years ago.

Read more from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel below:

One week after a report found Wisconsin ranked 13th in the nation in green jobs, a new report projects the state would add another 11,500 jobs if it adopted more aggressive policies supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The Union of Concerned Scientists report concludes that the Midwest would add 87,500 jobs by 2030 if all of the Midwest states implemented a series of policies advocated by the Midwestern Governors Association during an energy summit at the Pfister Hotel nearly four years ago.

Policies promoting green energy aren’t in focus given the recession and the Republican landslide in last November’s elections changed control of the Legislature and elected Republican Scott Walker as governor.

The report, “A Bright Future for the Heartland,” modeled the impact of policies that would set a 30% renewable electricity standard for Midwest states by 2030. Accompanying that would be aggressive energy efficiency policies that aim to reduce energy use by 2% a year beginning in 2015.

The report found the state could see $2.7 billion in investment from renewable energy projects, while aggressive move to deploy energy efficiency could save Wisconsin residents $5.9 billion on their electric and natural gas bills.

“Like a lot of other Midwest states, Wisconsin has really tremendous renewable energy potential,” said Jeff Deyette, vice president of energy research at UCS and a co-author of the report. “You combine that with a manufacturing base and skilled labor force ready to get back to work and you’ve got a real competitive advantage over other parts of the country, and other parts of the world, quite frankly.”

“We see this as an opportunity for the Midwest as a whole to put the pedal down in terms of moving forward on clean energy innovation,” he said.

The administration of Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, who led the energy and climate summit in 2007 with former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, sought to expand the state’s use of renewable energy but a bill to implement last year died. A separate Doyle administration proposal, by the state Public Service Commission, would have boosted funding for energy efficiency programs.

Energy efficiency advocates tout the importance of deploying energy-saving technologies to bring down customers’ bills even as utility rates rise.

“The bottom line is we should invest in Wisconsin resources and Wisconsin technologies and our workers, including our farmers, rather than sending so much money out of state for fossil fuels,” said Keith Reopelle, senior policy director at Clean Wisconsin.

But the state budget that Walker signed into law recently rolled back funding increases for energy efficiency.

The Walker administration is seeking to develop a more balanced energy policy that takes into account the economy, the environment and reliability, Department of Administration executive assistant Chris Schoenherr has said.

The administration is mulling energy legislation that would address energy efficiency and the Focus on Energy program, as well as a changes to the state’s renewable energy standard, which requires utilities to supply 10% of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2015.

There has been discussion by utilities of proposals to end the mandate or ease compliance with the mandate. Schoenherr said Tuesday the administration hasn’t finalized a definitive position on changes to the renewable standard.

As I reported over the weekend, the state’s utilities are all on track to meet the 2015 standard, though We Energies in particular would need to make significant investments by 2016 or 2017 to remain in compliance with the 10% mandate.

Deyette says Wisconsin is behind Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa in pushing renewable energy, and behind Illinois in pushing energy efficiency.

Rep. Brett Hulsey (D-Madison), said the recall elections – which hold the potential for Democrats to take back control of the state Senate – could be pivotal in deciding where Wisconsin heads on energy policy.

“Having a more clean energy focused Legislature would be helpful,” said Hulsey. “If the Dems take back the Senate, we can at least stop the bleeding that we’ve seen of energy jobs to Manitoba and sending wind energy jobs to Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota.”

But the economic and political climate has changed dramatically since 2007, when Pawlenty and Doyle signed a Midwest energy road map as well as a regional climate change accord at the Pfister.

Doyle was replaced with Walker, while Pawlenty — who recently launched a campaign for the Republican nomination for president — has taken heat from the right for his past position on global warming. He recently called his past support for “cap and trade” a mistake, saying, “The science is bad, and it’s in great dispute.”

That’s counter to findings issued for the past decade by the National Research Council, which is affiliated with the National Academy of Sciences. In its most recent report on the subject, published in May, the Research Council concluded, “Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by the emission of greenhouse gases from human activities, and poses significant risks for a range of human and natural systems. Emissions continue to increase, which will result in further change and greater risks.”

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