It is widely agreed that strategies addressing
climate change through the adoption of renewable
energy technologies cannot succeed without the
active participation of governments and regulators.
While it has been estimated that 80 percent of
investment in renewable energy technologies will
come from private sources, it is unlikely that
such large-scale commitments on the part of private
investors will occur without strong signals of
support from policymakers.
One region where lack of policy support has resulted
in minimal uptake of renewables is the Southern
US, where only four of 16 states, plus the District
of Columbia, have statewide renewable electricity
standards (RESs). According to the authors of a
new report entitled Renewable Energy in the South
[PDF], published by the Southeast Energy Efficiency
Alliance (SEEA), "Opponents of renewable energy
production claim that the South lacks the renewable
energy resources to capitalize on the growing demand
for clean energy."
The report, however, concludes otherwise. In a
region where "coal dominates electricity generation…and
renewables only provide 3.7 percent of its electricity
generation," the adoption of a federal RES
could lead to significant increases in the use
of renewables. If an RES is combined with a price
on carbon, the report found, as much as 30 percent
of the region's energy could come from renewable
The largest sources of renewable energy currently
in use in the Southern US are hydropower and wind.
Alabama, Tennessee, and Arkansas are major users
of hydropower, which makes up two percent of the
energy in the region. Wind power is consumed most
heavily in Texas and Oklahoma, and comprises about
one percent of the region's energy use.
According to the report, wind and biopower have
the greatest potential for utility-scale uptake
in the South, while wind and distributed solar
are most likely to be adopted as customer-owned
renewables. In a scenario that includes a price
on carbon, as much as 553 million tons CO2e of
emissions could be avoided by 2030.