There has been much ado about green jobs lately, and it's not about nothing. The Brookings Institute reported that there are currently 2.7 million jobs in the clean economy, already more than what is in the fossil fuel industry, and there's enormous potential for growth. "Clean-tech" jobs that have to do with renewable energy are a fairly small proportion of these jobs, but they have made the most gains in recent years—and our nation isn't even close to utilizing our full potential!
The driving forces behind these gains are the increasing realizations that the clean energy sector can greatly help strengthen and build our economy as well as create tens of thousands of jobs. National security would be strengthened with home-made energy, and increased use of renewable energy could lead us along the path of sustainability.
Nebraska has what it takes to be the hub of production for renewable fuels such as wind, solar, and bio-fuels. Currently, Nebraska ranks sixth in the nation in wind-energy potential and ninth in solar-energy potential. However, our state only ranks 18th in the nation in wind-energy production and captures very little solar energy.
We have, however, taken advantage of our bio-fuel potential and currently rank second in our ethanol production. Sustainability has become a new catchphrase in the global economy, and Nebraska can become a national leader in a growing industry if we seize the opportunity now to invest in the future.
We have cheap power in Nebraska, why would we want to change?
Because Nebraska is the only state with public power, and coal is currently inexpensive, we do get some of the cheapest electricity in the United States. However, in Nebraska, coal prices have continually increased the past 10 years and will likely continue to increase. There is no avoiding the point that coal is an exhaustible resource, while wind and solar are not. It's about the economic problem: unlimited wants constrained by limited resources. Taking the "limited" out of the equation would solve the problem, but we have to get there first, and our current investment in this state is not enough. Nebraska has the advantage of location and therefore the ability to act ahead on this issue--it will be good for our future.
Why are wind and solar power so expensive?
The price of these technologies have been decreasing as they are becoming more and more common, but they are still "alternative" energies, which means they are not yet the norm--which is the main reason they are so expensive. However, the price and advantage for utilizing a wind turbine or solar panel is relative to the user. Location and the amount of energy used per month are a couple of factors that help determine how fast the payback on the investment is made.
How can I start using renewable energy?
There are a number of different programs and incentives, at both the state and federal level that will help you become a user of renewable energies. Check out the U.S. Department of Energy website for an easily navigable list of state and federal incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency. Another great resource is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development site.
- The Brookings Institute Clean Economy Report
- Nebraska's Wind Resources, includes wind maps, policy, and projects
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory
- National Resources Defense Council: Nebraska Profile
- Nebraska Renewable Energy Association
- Quick look: Nebraska's Policy and Generation Performance compared to the rest of the states
- National trends in renewable energy