China's effort to get serious about renewable energy (and particularly wind) moved to a new level during the holidays, with the announcement of a new law that, according to the Wall Street Journal, “will force powerful state-owned electric grid companies, responsible for distributing electricity from power plants, to buy all the electricity generated from renewable sources even when it is more expensive and more complicated to use than electricity from coal-fired plants.”
The new action, rolled out in the wake of the Copenhagen climate conference in mid-December, is seen as an effort by the Chinese government to be seen as taking concrete action on the climate issue.
At the same time, it underlines an issue we have been talking about for some months now: simply stated, the countries that enact the strongest policy measures aimed at moving away from fossil fuels and toward clean, renewable energy will be in the strongest position to reap the jobs and other benefits that result. A recent review of the benefits that Texas has realized from becoming a national leader in wind development provides a useful case study. Notes the article:
The Roscoe Wind Farm is also a showcase of the potential that the wind power industry has for improving an area’s local economy through the creation of jobs. Located in Nolan County, the plant itself employs about 70 technicians. But at the peak of its building, it employed 600 people. Other employment opportunities are available through the wind development industries.
Greg Wortham, mayor of Sweetwater, the area’s county seat, told the Wall Street Journal that 20 percent of Nolan County’s jobs were related to wind development. More than a decade ago, the county’s unemployment rate was well above the state’s rate of 8.3 percent. By September of this year, its unemployment rate had dropped to 6.4 percent.
As the global wind industry builds out its supply chain and makes decisions on where to locate new manufacturing facilities, the U.S. Congress has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to foster the creation of thousands of new manufacturing jobs–the kind of jobs that have been fleeing the U.S. in recent decades–by passing a national Renewable Electricity Standard with concrete near-term targets. Hard targets for use of renewables are a proven job creator both in the US and around the world, in addition to avoiding emissions and increasing America’s energy security.
More information on the Renewable Electricity Standard is available here.