Bolstering Security with Renewables
- Posted on July 12, 2011
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FROM MY NEW PERSPECTIVE as president of the American Council On Renewable Energy, it is clear that although the United States' energy posture constitutes a serious and urgent threat to our national and economic security, that challenge also represents a great opportunity. It is well past time for us to take threats to our energy security seriously and to begin to overhaul how we've been going about energy in a business-as-usual-manner, especially in Washington.
That overhaul begins with us working together to take charge of our own energy future. By recognizing the scope of the challenge and aligning what sometimes seem to be quite divergent views about truly sustainable energy solutions, we can create a vibrant new energy economy to make America more secure and prosperous. And renewable energy, of all types, is a rapidly growing part of that 21st-century energy economy
For many years, many other national security leaders and I have been speaking out about America's dangerous, costly and unsustainable energy posture. As a nation, we use over 25 percent of the world's oil supplies each year, but we control less than 3 percent of the known reserves. Our over-reliance on fossil fuels, especially foreign oil, is expensive, unreliable and puts us at the mercy of unstable, unfriendly governments and fluctuating global economic trends that determine the unacceptably high price we pay for our fossil fuel addiction.
In 2008, at the beginning of our economic recession, the United States sent $386 billion overseas to pay for oil, with many of those petro-dollars flowing into Iranian coffers and, in turn, financing insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan who are killing and wounding our men and women in uniform. America sends nearly $1 billion out of our economy every single day to import oil. For way too long, we have bet our security and economy on a global petroleum market that is volatile and getting more so each year. As global demand for oil increases along with dwindling supplies, and as the increasing effects of climate change are felt worldwide, global political unrest and upheaval will create even more havoc with the price of oil - as we have been a powerless witness to recently.
This is clearly an unacceptable level of risk to our national, economic and energy security, exploitable by those who wish to do us harm. As a former military commander, I am used to recognizing and managing risks, evaluating cost and benefit options, and planning courses of action to deal with different scenarios. As we determine the best ways to deal with America's security and energy risks, significantly scaled-up clean, renewable energy is an essential threat-reducer.
A multibillion-dollar economic revolution in renewable energy technology already is under way around the world. Renewable energy currently is responsible for 11 percent of America's domestic energy production, with more than 125 gigawatts of operating renewable power projects and
13 billion gallons of biofuels projects directly replacing oil. Tremendous technical and financial potential exists to greatly accelerate its growth. Compelling evidence exists that clean energy policies are powerful economic drivers and enable large-scale deployment of capital and renewable energy technology. Largely driven by strong, state-led initiatives, the United States attracted more than $30.7 billion in total renewable energy-specific investments in 2010, and the country was home to more than 160,000 jobs in the wind and solar sectors alone.
An example of the positive economic effect of renewable energy power generation is the Nellis Solar Power Plant located at Nellis Air Force Base in Clark County, Nev. The Nellis solar energy system was inaugurated in December 2007 and generates in excess of 25 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, supplying more than 25 percent of the power used at the base. The energy generated will support the more than 12,000 military service members and civilians at Nellis who are responsible for some of the Air Force's advanced combat training, tactics development and operational testing. The Nellis project supports Nevada's commitment to developing its strong solar energy resources, with more than 100 megawatts of solar power already deployed in the state.
In Hawaii, Kahuku Wind provides nearly 7,700 homes on Oahu with clean, reliable energy. As one of the most advanced wind projects in the country, the 30-megawatt project features the largest wind turbines manufactured in North America and an innovative battery system to smooth the output. With few conventional sources of energy available in-state, the project moves Hawaii forward on its path toward energy independence and reduces the state's costly reliance on imported oil for power. A Madison Dear-born Partners investment funded the $148 million wind and storage project together with a $117 million federal loan guarantee, and the project created more than 200 construction jobs.
Beyond developing new sustainable energy technologies, energy efficiency, transmission solutions and conservation are essential pieces of a broad national energy policy. Electricity infrastructure upgrades, increased fuel-efficiency standards and flex-fuel upgrades for cars and trucks, energy efficiency through residential, commercial and industrial building standards all will work to greatly reduce energy use, create jobs and save families, businesses and industries a lot of money.
As ACORE moves into its second decade of renewable energy leadership, it will deepen its commitment to its members, expand its scope and knowledge base and fully engage renewable energy thought leaders in creating a path forward.
Through strengthened partnerships across the entire energy industry, ACORE will develop and support the ideas, policies, technologies and financial mechanisms that will help bring 21st-century domestic energy and fuels to their full commercial-scale potential.
While staying fully engaged at the national level, ACORE will expand its understanding of the best state and regional energy solutions through its Regional Roundtables and bring those good ideas to Washington to help inform a broad national energy strategy that will be more secure, sustainable and domestically produced.
As Americans, we cannot close our eyes and pretend our unsustainable energy posture and our threatened national and economic security will fix themselves. This is our challenge to meet and our opportunity to succeed. Now is the time for us to take action and greatly expand our energy choices. Let's join together to create the kind of energy future that will ensure and enhance our national security and prosperity