A Bright Future for the Heartland (2011)

July 2011
The Midwest can turn the challenges of a stalled economy and an unsustainable energy system into an opportunity for economic prosperity, job growth, and a healthy environment.

From the manufacturing centers and corn and soybean fields to the major finance hubs and lead­ing research universities, Midwest states have long served as an economic engine for the United States.

Yet the region is still struggling to fully recover from a recession that has made it difficult for families to pay bills and for businesses to prosper and sustain job growth.

The region’s unsustainable energy system exacerbates these economic pressures.

The Midwest power system is dominated by coal—largely imported from outside the region—which poses serious risks to public health and the environment, and leaves consumers vulnerable to volatile energy prices.

With abundant resources, revitalization is possible. 

The good news is that practical and affordable ways are available to help revitalize the Midwest economy and ensure a clean, safe, and reliable power supply.

The Midwest is home to some of the best renewable energy resources in the world.

The region is also endowed with a strong industrial base and leading research universities, where a tradition of hard work and innovation has long made the Midwest an economic engine for the entire nation.

Few areas of the world have this ideal mix of resources, industrial capacity, and knowledge base.

These advantages give the Midwest the tools to turn the challenges of a stalled economy and an unsustainable, polluting energy system into an opportunity for economic prosperity, job growth, and a healthy environment.

UCS’s new report, A Bright Future for the Heartland, shows how we can get there.

Clean energy: a wise investment for a bright future.

Energy efficiency technologies and renewable electricity resources, such as wind, bioenergy, and solar energy, offer a cost-effective and responsible path away from polluting fossil fuels toward an innovation-based twenty-first-century economy.

Investing in these solutions would deliver new jobs and other economic development benefits, save consumers money, diversify the region's energy mix, and cut heat-trapping emissions that cause global warming.

Boosting invest­ment in renewable energy and energy efficiency would also help keep the Midwest competitive in the growing global clean energy industry.

A roadmap for renewable energy and energy efficiency. 

In A Bright Future for the Heartland, UCS based its analysis on the renewable energy and energy efficiency goals of the Midwestern Governors Association (MGA)—a collaboration of 10 states working on key public policy issues.

These goals call for producing 30 percent of the Midwest's electricity supply from renewable energy by 2030, and for investing in energy efficiency technologies to reduce growth in power consumption at least 2 percent annually by 2015 and thereafter.

Two key solutions: renewable electricity and energy efficiency standards.

In 2009 an MGA advisory group released the Midwestern Energy Security and Climate Stewardship Roadmap (or Energy Roadmap), a set of policy recommendations for tran­sitioning to a clean energy economy (MGA 2009).

Our analysis focuses on two of the highest-priority recommendations in the Energy Roadmap, which we model as a renewable electricity standard (RES) and an energy efficiency resource standard (EERS). Our report shares what would happen if the entire Midwest region enacted the standards.

  • An RES is a flexible, market-based policy that requires electricity providers to gradu­ally increase the amount of renewable energy used to produce the power they supply.

  • An EERS similarly requires utilities to meet specific annual targets for reducing the use of electricity.

While the region will need other policies to overcome specific market barriers to clean energy, the RES and EERS have proven to be effective and popular tools for advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency, and can play a key role in ensuring that the Midwest meets the targets in the Energy Roadmap.

A bright future, together.

Midwest states can benefit from enacting these policies individually, but will benefit even more by acting together.

Many Midwest states have already taken important steps to promote clean energy, and there must be no retrenchment in those efforts.

Instead, each state can go further to strengthen or enact policies that at least match the Energy Roadmap’s clean energy targets, and to support local, regional, federal, and international efforts to promote renewable energy, energy efficiency, and cuts in carbon emissions.

With each state doing its part to promote renewable energy and ener­gy efficiency, the region will reap many vital benefits today while building a clean and sustainable energy economy for future generations.

 

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