Guest post by Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign
As aging coal plants retire, Sierra Club activists, members, and allies nationwide are doing innovative, exciting work to replace that power with clean energy. Americans know we must end our dependence on fossil fuels to provide cleaner, healthier air.
We also know that clean energy innovation is powering economic growth and creating new jobs in this country every day. These recent highlights from the Midwest are just a small sample of the groundswell of the homegrown support for clean energy that is sweeping the nation.In Western Michigan last week, more than 170 people turned out for a wind energy public forum held by the local Sierra Club chapter and more than a dozen other businesses and non-profits. The crowd listened to speakers like this one talk about wind power’s benefits for that region, which includes everything from pollution-free electricity, to job creation:
A wind turbine is made of more than 8,000 parts, said Sue Browne, program manager for BlueGreen Alliance Michigan. The alliance works to expand the number and quality of jobs in a “green” economy. Manufacturing wind turbines will bring both, Browne said. The process employs a variety of professions, from iron workers to electricians, she said.
This wind power event came on the heels of last month’s report by the Michigan Public Service Commission regarding the state’s development of clean energy and also the future viability of coal as a source of energy.
The report shows Michigan’s renewable energy standard is directly sparking Michigan’s economy, generating $100 million in investments, spurring manufacturing and business growth, and creating jobs.In Michigan, not only is the state’s renewable energy standard creating jobs and generating millions of dollars of investment, but the ongoing movement for clean energy has also meant that some renewable sources of energy – particularly wind power – are now cheaper than coal. Also last week, the Sierra Club North Star Chapter in Minnesota delivered to Governor Mark Dayton more than 6,000 postcards calling for more solar power and clean energy. See their photo at the top of this post.
“It was a real team effort collecting these cards, with over 150 volunteers helping out since 2010,” says Sierra Club volunteer Stephanie Spitzer, who helped coordinate the delivery.
The Sierra Club is part of the Solar Works for Minnesota coalition, a group of businesses, consumers, labor groups, the solar industry, and clean energy advocates working to establish a Solar Energy Standard, with 10 percent of the state’s electricity coming from solar by 2030. The Club is pushing for state agencies to achieve that goal by 2025.The North Star Chapter is also working with solar installers to teach the public about what it takes to install solar at your home or office. This month’s workshop is in Edina, Minnesota, where clean energy financing is available for businesses. Finally, in Wisconsin last month, the Sierra Club John Muir Chapter hosted a Great Lakes wind stakeholder conference connecting potential supply chain businesses, local technical colleges, utility representative, labor, elected officials and environmentalists. Topics ranged from the economic opportunity of offshore wind for Wisconsin to responsible siting considerations. From the conference, a working group formed to continue exploring this clean energy opportunity. And these are just three examples from the Midwest. All these events nationwide add up to a groundswell of support for clean energy. Americans see the benefits of clean energy and know it’s time to make the switch.