New Report:Southeast Leadership In Next Generation Electricity Powers Region Beyond "Drill Baby Drill", Spurs Jobs, Businesses, Innovation

Southeast leads the nation in smart grid technology businesses, stands to gain tens of thousands of jobs from capturing efficiency gains.

10-19-2012 // Tony Iallonardo, Zoe Lipman and Patty Durand
Mississippi River

As voters contemplate who will occupy the White House and Congress in the years ahead, the Center for the Next Generation and the Center for American Progress released “Regional Energy, National Solutions,” a new report that argues that the United States needs a real strategy to achieve lasting energy and economic security – one that builds on the powerful assets of each region of the country and invests in multiple forms of energy and fuel.

“Jobs being built across the Southeast today show that America has what it takes to meet the challenge of climate change, thrive in a resource-constrained global economy, and create lasting economic growth at home,” said Zoe Lipman, Senior Manager New Energy Solutions at the National Wildlife Federation, who authored the Southeast chapter of the report.

“The Southeast has been historically dependent on fossil -fuels, but a one size fits all “Drill Baby Drill” vision for the region is built on yesterday’s limited view of the region’s capabilities and shortchanges its future. By contrast, building on the South’s innovation and manufacturing strengths to lead in modernizing the electric sector and capturing major efficiency gains would mean tens of thousands of new jobs, save consumers and businesses billions, and grow globally competitive businesses both large and small.”

In the Southeast, the report finds:

  • The energy world is changing. New “smart-grid” technology that upgrades how we generate, distribute and use electricity will be critical to maintaining reliability, helping families save money and businesses become more competitive by using energy more efficiently, and connecting renewable energy, advanced appliances and vehicles to the grid.
  • According to a national study by the Center for Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness at Duke University, the Southeast boasts more firms across the growing high-tech “smart-grid” industry than any other region.
    • When it looked more closely at the North Carolina Research Triangle, CGGC found 59 smart-grid firms with over 100 locations in that area alone, while separate studies estimated 3,000 people employed today in smart grid businesses in the Research Triangle and almost 5,000 in similar businesses in Georgia.
  • The region lags in implementing conventional energy efficiency policies and practices, however. Acting swiftly to address the region’s serious shortfall and capture those energy savings would cut pollution deeply and generate jobs in the manufacturing, equipment and building sectors, while energy savings would further boost the economy.
    • A study by Georgia Tech and Duke University showed the potential to cut energy use across the region by 16 percent by 2030. This would result in annual consumer savings of $71 billion and lead to the creation of 520,000 jobs by 2030.

“The smart-grid helps the region get the most from its home grown energy resources,” said Marcy Lowe, Senior Research Analyst at the Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness at Duke University. “At the same time, it’s an opportunity for our companies to sell vital manufacturing, services and software needed to solve critical energy challenges worldwide.”

Patty Durand, Executive Director of the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative in Atlanta adds, “When we put efficiency together with new smart grid technology we also provide better quality of life for consumers and a chance for companies to innovate – all while saving money – and protecting the environment.”

Unlike fossil-fuel only plans, the promise of the clean economy is not a mirage. Clean energy and technology investments are working all across the country, employing millions of Americans. In the second quarter of 2012 alone, more than 37,000 new clean energy jobs were announced in projects across 30 states. In addition to smart grid and efficiency, the South is strong in advanced vehicle manufacturing, and has great potential in solar, biomass and offshore wind power. The Southeast can lead, and America can prosper, when we make the energy choices that take the American people, our economy, and our outdoor heritage forward together.

It’s time for all our nation’s politicians to support these forward looking energy choices.

To read the full report, click here.