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Study Takes Down Renewable Energy Myths in the U.S. South

Wind turbine rotor (NREL)

(National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

A study by researchers at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and Georgia Tech in Atlanta analyzes myths propagated by both advocates and opponents of renewable energy and finds they don’t hold up to scrutiny. Their findings appear online in the journal Energy Policy (paid subscription required).

Duke’s Etan Gumerman and Georgia Tech’s Marilyn Brown, with colleagues from their respective campuses, used energy and economic modeling tools to test six beliefs identified in earlier research and often found in debates about renewable energy among policy-makers or in public forums in the U.S. South:

Energy efficiency and renewable energy by themselves cannot meet the South’s growing electricity demand

The South does not have sufficient renewable energy resources to meet a Federal Renewable Energy Standard

Renewable energy cannot be promoted without escalating electricity rates

Energy efficiency and renewable energy policies are not compatible

Cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy policies are sufficient to retire existing coal plants and reduce air pollution

Power resource decisions have little impact on water resources

Their findings show implementing renewable electricity standards and complementary policies could stabilize greenhouse gas emissions. They also find combining these steps with stronger regulations, such as a $15 per ton carbon tax, could help retire coal-fired power plants and reduce emissions by 23 percent compared to today’s levels.

The belief that replacing fossil fuels will raise energy costs is debunked as well. Gumerman and Brown find clean power generation can save money for consumers in the South, even while meeting most demand growth over the next 20 years, where population is expected to increase by 28 percent.

But a widely held belief among climate change activists is likewise not supported by Gumerman and Brown’s data. Their analysis shows it will take more than a national Renewable Electricity Standard or supportive energy efficiency policies to retire coal-fired power plants.

The study uncovered possible benefits involving water resources, an issue not often raised in the context of renewable energy. Gumerman and Brown find in their analysis renewable and energy efficiency measures could help save up to one trillion liters of water in 2030, a key issue in the South were droughts often occur.

Read more. National Lab: U.S. Energy, Fossil Fuels Use Up in 2010

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