Sep 21, 2021 - Energy & Environment

First look: Study sees renewables boosting Appalachia

Economic benefits of potential <br>renewable energy buildout
Data: RMI; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

A new analysis finds that greatly accelerating wind and solar power deployment would bring major economic benefits to rural areas, with Appalachia seeing especially strong gains.

Driving the news: The clean energy think tank RMI is out with new regional-level projections shared first with Axios and shown above.

  • They looked at estimated revenues under an aggressive buildout that would see the U.S. reach 90% zero-carbon power by 2035.

How it works: RMI estimated direct benefits over the life of renewables projects built from 2021-2030 from tax revenues, land lease payments, and jobs and wages from building, operating and maintaining the projects.

  • It did not model indirect economic benefits, such as manufacturing and revenues to nearby businesses.

Why it matters: Democrats hope to move big renewables policies on Capitol Hill, including expanded tax credits and a new system of financial carrots and sticks for utilities.

  • A huge question is whether Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin will back the efforts, which require his vote in the 50-50 Senate.
  • RMI's analysis shows that Appalachia, including Manchin's state, would fare well under aggressive deployment scenarios.

Catch up fast: Those regional estimates update a report RMI released earlier this year about rural benefits from renewables deployment.

What's next: RMI plans to step up circulation of the report and the newer regional analyses.

  • "We think all lawmakers should look at this data as it challenges widely held beliefs about the energy transition," said John Coequyt, RMI's U.S. government affairs director, in an email.
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