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A New Day for Wyoming Renewable Energy

This week, the Jackson Hole Center for Global Affairs (JHCGA), submitted a letter to Governor Mead and the Wyoming State Legislature proposing the state support a resolution recognizing a "new day" for Wyoming wind. JHCGA believes that Wyoming can become a national leader in wind energy, attracting jobs and demonstrating a potential template for other coal-producing regions in the process.

The letter is the first step in a larger Wyoming Wind Coalition of electric utilities, wind developers, business and economic development organizations, infrastructure authorities, and trade associations in the state with a shared vision and common message for the state's future.

According to Lazard's widely cited Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis research, renewable energy prices have fallen across the country and are cost-competitive with coal and natural gas as a source of electric power. At the same time, demand for wind energy is growing. 11 states use it for more than 10% of their power. Some states use more - Iowa, Colorado - approximately 30%, California is aiming to get 50% of its electricity from wind by 2030. Texas has more wind energy installed than any state.

This is a big and growing market opportunity that Wyoming should pursue aggressively. Doing so will ensure Wyoming capitalizes on its’ world class wind resources.

Wind energy holds the potential to reinvigorate Wyoming’s future, particularly given the state's dependence on coal. By attracting generation and transmission developers and encouraging manufacturers of wind components to site facilities, the state can create new jobs and enlarge its tax base. According to the U.S. Energy and Employment Report, published by the Department of Energy last month, there are 100,000 wind energy jobs across the country. These jobs span the supply chain—from manufacturing to installation.

Many in Wyoming seem to believe that if wind succeeds, coal, a bedrock of the Wyoming economy, will fail. As a result, there have been legislative proposals to tax Wyoming's wind and fine utilities that use renewable power. But wind is not the enemy of coal. Wyoming leads in coal-production and next generation coal technologies. We believe those investments should continue while also encouraging wind development. Doing so will ensure that Wyoming remains a leader in energy production, builds economic diversification, and strengthens energy security.

A strong first step towards this goal would be to pass a resolution signifying a new day in Wyoming for wind and renewable energy. The resolution would send a direct signal to the market, yielding new investments in the state, creating new jobs, and generating new economic growth. Wyoming has helped other energy resources get developed, for instance suspending the severance tax on uranium. Wind should also be incentivized. JHCGA's letter recommends the following policy recommendations to Wyoming’s state legislature. We believe these policies will help catalyze a new day for wind energy in the state:

  • Reinstate the sales tax exemption on wind energy equipment;

  • Streamline local and state permitting procedures for wind power development and transmission, become a strong advocate for streamlining federal permitting rules under the NEPA;

  • Institute workforce training programs in wind power engineering, construction and manufacturing;

  • Provide support through the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority (WIA) for the negotiation of power purchase and off-take agreements;

  • Promote level playing field for renewable energy with rural electric cooperatives;

  • Consider loan guarantees: utilize WIA’s authority to issue bonds to finance infrastructure and increase this authority to equal that of the Wyoming Pipeline Authority at $5 billion;

  • Provide advocacy relative to grid integration and the creation of Regional Transmission Organizations (RTO’s);

  • Encourage leadership in D.C. to adopt and advocate for renewable development.

These recommendations are offered in the spirit of Wyoming’s future – the jobs the state needs to create and the new economic growth needed. A new day in Wyoming for wind energy will not mean the end of coal in Wyoming. Rather it will mean that Wyoming makes serious strides to achieving economic diversification and becomes a national leader in the energy that will power the future.

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