Written by: Commissioner Scott Rupp, Missouri Public Service Commission
We know Republicans advocate for principles like personal responsibility, smaller government, and free market capitalism. It seems like a natural link between these principles and the innovative nature of the renewable energy industry (wind, solar, etc.). So I wonder why more Republicans don’t embrace renewables with open arms?
I’ve attended a number of energy conferences and noticed a trend among the renewable energy people – they are young. The renewable energy sector attracts young entrepreneurs who want to make a difference. Innovative energy solutions open up the highly regulated utility industry to more competition. This should be a target rich audience for the Republican party’s message of limited government and free market capitalism, but we’re missing the mark.
First: There’s room for everyone! Many of my fellow Republicans need to realize that if you embrace renewables, you aren’t turning your back on oil, gas, coal, nuclear, etc. You simply understand the economics of affordability of new technology, and the impact it is having on the marketplace.
Second: Renewable energy is not a leftist movement. Too many elected officials of my party have made that assumption in the past. Here’s an example: When I was first elected to the Missouri House of Representatives, an issue came up that dealt with individuals with disabilities. I was told by party leadership “Don’t waste your time. Those aren’t people that support us; you will never get their support. All they want is more and more government”. I was shocked that this mindset was rampant among my colleagues. When did disabilities become partisan? Well flash forward to the end of my political career and we saw numerous programs for kids with disabilities reformed, and serving the population better. I passed landmark autism insurance legislation, and today Missouri is considered by many one of the best states for how we serve individuals with disabilities. And this was accomplished mostly by Republicans. Today, disability issues in Missouri are not partisan, and I think the same thing can be done for renewable energy.
Third: Green = $. When you hear green energy, don’t let your mind immediately go “Green = green peace. Green peace = protestors. Protestors = 1960’s hippies with their free love and organic food. Organic food = Jolly Green Giant. Jolly Green Giant = men in green tights. Men in green tights = the far left agenda” and so on and so on. Instead, think Green = money. It is fiscally prudent to support renewable energy. Think of it this way – energy efficiency saves you and your business money. Having renewables as part of your energy mix, is the same as having a diverse portfolio. You would never have 100% of your retirement plan in one or two stocks. Why not diversify your energy mix as well. It is smart, it is prudent, and if you look at the numbers, it makes economic sense.
Finally: Focus on Jobs. The family trying to pay for their kids’ education and make the house payment doesn’t care if the latest study about global warming is wrong. They care about their family and keeping or getting good paying jobs. As republicans, we love jobs, especially family supporting jobs. The last time I looked, the new technologies in the energy industry around wind and solar and smart metering were creating jobs and new third party cottage industries. The new modernized grid will have third party vendors and entrepreneurs popping up to fill niche markets we haven’t even thought of yet. Self-starting, risk taking, smart people are looking to start and grow a business, hire people, make money and impact the community in which they live, work and play.
I do want to digress and point out that there are many republicans that are very supportive of renewable energy. When he was Governor of Texas, former President George W. Bush pushed through legislation requiring utilities to buy renewable power, leading to widespread development of wind farms.
In an article in Bloomberg news by Joe Ryan, there was a great info graphic which I inserted below:
It seems that the support for renewable energy will have to start coming from within the rank and file of the Republican Party, and based on where that energy is being created, it will come from the heartland of the country. Jobs associated with renewable energy are growing, and the stats are getting the attention of some Republican lawmakers.
For too long the left has dominated the renewable energy issue. It is time that we Republicans embrace the economics and new technology and welcome renewables into our energy mix along with coal, natural gas, and nuclear. It is time that we made renewable energy a non-partisan issue.
Comm. Scott Rupp has been on the Missouri Public Service Commission since 2014. You can follow him on Twitter @Scott_Rupp.