Passing a national Renewable Energy Standard (RES) this summer was one of Congress’ main goals before it ran out of time in August. Luckily, however, an RES remains on the agenda for the fall. In fact, you could say it is back by popular demand: senators from both parties are expressing strong support for passing an RES before the November elections, and on September 12th the 26 state governors of the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition (GWEC) wrote Congress expressing the urgency of passing an RES for their states. This groundswell of support in Congress led Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to declare “we are going to keep working on this. You won’t hear the last of us until we adjourn.”

The letter from the GWEC, which includes governors from both parties across the country, described “job creation, secure energy supplies, and cost-effective carbon emissions” as some benefits of a national RES. This is consistent with the findings of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), which states that an RES of just 15% would guarantee 85,000 US jobs. This 15% standard is less than what is already required by many states that have passed their own standards.  In addition, an RES would attract huge investment in the renewable industry. For instance, according to the AWEA, CEO Lew Hay of NextEra Energy has already pledged that his company would invest an additional $2.5 billion dollars per year in renewable energy if an RES were to pass.

Above all else, pro-RES senators and governors have stressed the urgency of passing a renewable mandate sooner rather than later. This reflects the idea, long voiced by industry leaders such as General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt and AWEA CEO Denise Bode, that securing investment in the US renewable energy sector is a time-sensitive issue. An RES will guarantee a market for renewable energy in the US far into the future. However, other countries (particularly China, which recently surpassed the US in annual wind installments) are already making big investments in renewables and securing much of the global investment and jobs. If the US wants to make itself the world’s renewable energy leader and thus gain a valuable export industry, it has to act soon.

One of the best attributes of a national RES is that it would bring the benefits of wind to states that don’t have enough wind resources to support large project development, especially the southeastern part of the country. These regions would likely experience a growth in manufacturing jobs as wind component factories open their doors. The RES would also ensure wind would comprise much of the energy on the grid, even if that energy is not actually produced in the region.

In a recent interview with Yale Environment 360, Christian Kjaer, CEO of the European Wind Energy Association, talked about the best way for the US to match Europe’s considerable progress in generating wind energy:

“I think if there were one word to communicate to U.S. policymakers, it is that you need stability. I’m saying that because the U.S. framework for investing in renewables is very unstable — I mean, it cannot be predicted more than one or two years ahead. And that also means that the United States is not reaping the job creation benefits of wind energy, because a lot of components, a lot of manufacturing is imported because no one’s going to invest in a factory in the United States if they don’t know how the market looks beyond the next two years.”

An RES, by guaranteeing a market for wind energy in the US, would provide exactly the kind of long term stability Kjaer is talking about. So contact your Senator about supporting a Renewable Energy Standard today!

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