The Clean Energy Trust, for one, has long argued that the Midwest is uniquely equipped to be a cleantech leader, and now the Chicago-based organization has a compatriot. In a new report, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) argues that by boosting clean energy investment – focusing on the usual suspects wind and solar, and also biomass that takes advantage of agricultural waste – “Midwest residents would pay less for electricity, have more job opportunities and breathe healthier air.”
According to the UCS study, by sourcing just 30 percent of their electricity from renewable forms, Midwesterners could save $43 billion on utility bills by 2030, gain nearly 86,000 jobs and see a major increase in personal income, helping boost funding for schools and municipalities. Greenhouse gas emissions from power plants in the region would fall by 130 metric tons annually by 2030, equal to the annual emissions from 30 typical new coal plants, UCS said.
While Midwestern states would benefit by acting separately, acting together would multiply the effect, UCS said, helping revitalize the nation’s economy. “It’s important that the region maintain momentum in making this transition because they could quickly lose ground to fast-growing clean energy economies in China, Germany and other countries,” said Steven Frenkel, director of UCS’s Midwest office.
The Midwest is uniquely suited for renewable energy, UCS said. Great stretches of flat land make it perfect for solar and wind plants, and its role as an agricultural hub means that farm waste like corn stalks can be easily used for biomass power. “Few places in the world have the combination of a great renewable energy potential, a strong manufacturing base and the skilled workforce needed to realize that potential,” said Claudio Martinez, UCS energy analyst and report author. “And the Midwest is one of those places.”