In September I attended a Climate Change Coalition of Door County (CCCDC) presentation given by Tyler Huebner, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a renewable energy advocacy focused on advancing wind, solar, bioenergy, and smart energy usage. I have become accustomed to witnessing an impressive assortment of environmental experts in the CCCDC speaker lineup, but it is those speakers who offer specific solutions to environmental problems that inspire me to take action. Tyler was one of those…as I’m sure he was for the scores of others in the room that night.
Tyler addressed Wisconsin’s very real potential for transitioning from a fossil fuel-based power system to one produced primarily through renewable sources – wind, sun, bioenergy. He described the staggering economic loss we, Wisconsin taxpayers, suffer through purchasing coal and natural gas from other states, and highlighted successful communities around our State who have created renewable energy companies whose cost is equal to or less than power produced from fossil fuels.
Tyler’s entire presentation was informative and inspirational, and it is worth exploring the RENEWWisconsin.org website to consider the many points he made. But as I think about the future of our community and our economy I found one particular figure he cited frankly shocking: the coal industry which is so heavily touted as a “must-save” industry in our nation accounts for only a half-million of American jobs. Yet the solar industry, which produces no emissions and is environmentally harmless, contributes 2.5 million jobs to our economy…five times as many! Wisconsin has no coal fields, but we do have sun. So shouldn’t we be doing all we can to harness that potential, and keep our jobs and our dollars within our State?
Wisconsin ranks at the bottom of all twelve Midwestern states on a per capita basis of jobs in the renewable energy industry. But Tyler sees that as a “glass half full” – a real economic opportunity for Wisconsin. As renewable technology continues to improve and prices continue to fall, investing in RE throughout our State, as Michigan and Minnesota have done, could be a real boon to our jobs market, in a clean and healthy manner.
Sturgeon Bay, Wis.