When President* Trump took office on an agenda that included rolling back federal regulations favoring renewable energy, many observers predicted that the trend to clean power would nevertheless continue. Well, they were right. State-level support for clean power continues to have an impact, corporate buyers have firmly established wind and solar as bottom line benefits that transcend political bias, and now it seems that the political bias itself is beginning to wilt.
North Carolina: The Case For Apolitical Renewable Energy
In one recent development, our friends over at Energy News Network took a deep dive into North Carolina politics and noted that several Republican candidates who vigorously support clean power have been winning their primary elections during this election cycle.
That’s quite a turnaround for the state, which has been a hotbed of anti-wind sentiment in recent years.
ENN provides the example of North Carolina State Senate candidate Bob Steinberg (do read the full piece for more details):
“There were folks on the other side that were hoping that issue would be my Achilles heel. These are primary voters. These are the most conservative of the conservative,” said Steinburg, who is serving his third term in the North Carolina House. “But being for renewable energy — it did not hurt me at all.”
Take a look at Steinberg’s official website and you’ll see that the support for clean energy is not part of a moderate package. Steinberg touts his support for the NRA along with other conservative credentials:
…He is committed to protecting the traditional values that made America the “shining city on a hill” and will not waver in his core beliefs.
Steinberg’s primary opponent, Clark Twiddy, also voiced support for renewable energy during primary season.
However, according to a local news report it seems that Steinberg was able to leverage his bona fides as a lifelong Republican against Twiddy’s mixed record as an Independent.
Also factoring into the mix is the issue of seismic testing off the Atlantic coast, which could lead to offshore oil and gas drilling. Steinberg was a definite “no” on that topic, while Twiddy adopted a wait-and-see position.
To be clear, the support for renewables has a long bipartisan row to hoe before it tips the balance in North Carolina politics. The state is one of the nation’s top solar leaders, but just last year state lawmakers passed a temporary ban on new wind farm construction, promoted by a group of Republican legislators.
That leave’s Avangrid’s Amazon Wind Farm US East as North Carolina’s only wind farm to date, but that could change.
With a pro-renewables Governor now in office, this year’s General Election could prove mighty interesting for North Carolina’s clean power profile.
100% Renewable Energy, One City At A Time
Things are even more interesting on the municipal level, politically speaking. One good example is the Republican-leaning Texas city of Georgetown, Texas. Several years ago the city set a 100% clean power goal, which it recently blew past.
That plan relied on non-local renewable energy purchases. Now the city is looking to one-up itself by transitioning to 100% on site and hyper-local sources.
When Georgetown’s clean power quest launched back in 2014, the argument in favor of renewable energy came down to classic fiscal conservatism: wind and solar producers were offering guaranteed rates for 20-25 years, compared to just seven years for natural gas.
Earlier this year, our friends over at Mother Jones took note of a similar economic force at work in the Louisiana town of Abita Springs, which is located in a “consistently Republican county [aka parish] where 73 percent of voters supported Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, and every elected local official is Republican.”
Although oil and gas accounts for about 7% employment in the parish, Abita Springs itself has become something of a hipster tourist destination. The emerging tourist economy and the threat of a new fracking operation right by the town’s high school may have factored into the push for alternatives. Last year the city’s legislators voted to join the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 renewable energy campaign.
Abita Springs is a long shot to reach its 100% goal, but not only on account of politics. According to Mother Jones, a local utility’s new gas-fired power plant is blocking the potential for purchasing offsite clean power.
Despite a thin funding stream, the city has developed a suite of energy efficiency upgrades and rooftop solar installations, so there is some wiggle room for progress.
Another example is Lancaster, California, which has been dubbed a “clean energy powerhouse” for its aggressive pursuit of solar power under a Republican mayor.
As of last fall the city was on track to become a net producer of clean energy, thanks in part to a streamlined permitting process that enables a new solar installation to win approval in as little as 15 minutes.
Speaking of big dreams, last fall Lancaster was eyeballing the prospect of investing in a new transmission line that would enable it to sell its excess solar power to Los Angeles.
If you’re wondering how that’s going, so is CleanTechnica. We’re reaching out to the Mayor’s office for an update, so stay tuned.
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Image (screenshot): City of Georgetown, Texas via YouTube.
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