Corker Turns Blind Eye to Clean Energy at Recent Roundtable

Senator Corker listening to participants' concerns over rising energy costs.

Senator Corker's Roundtable on Electricity and Economic Development didn't include a single voice from the state's clean energy markets.

Senator Bob Corker recently held a forum at UT Chattanooga’s campus to discuss the state’s electricity issues and what that means for job creation in this area. Unfortunately, the roundtable was more of a half-circle as it did not include a single representative from the state’s multi-billion dollar (and growing) renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors.

Participants at the roundtable included representatives from TVA, its distributor community, various industrial and business interests and the “clean” coal industry. Given that the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries have invested billions of dollars and created thousands of jobs in Tennessee over the past several years, it is disappointing that Senator Corker would hold this “roundtable” without any representation from these sectors. Even Senator Corker’s hometown of Chattanooga is benefiting from these investments — the city is home to both an Aerisyn wind turbine manufacturing facility and to Signal Energy, a full service design/build contractor for renewable energy projects.

According to Corker’s website…”(The) Roundtable On Electricity and Economic Development reveals low cost, reliable power is the key to job creation and investment in the Tennessee Valley.” That’s great for a soundbite, but the big question is not whether we need low cost, reliable power. We can all agree on that. The real question is: how do we get there?

If you're having serious discussion about our energy and economic future without including clean energy voices, you're missing the boat.

If you're having serious discussion about our energy and economic future without including clean energy voices, you're missing the boat.

Whether it’s highly regarded national studies, robust analysis from regional leaders, or the Tennessee Valley Authority’s own integrated resource plan, it is generally agreed that a future of low-cost, reliable power starts with energy efficiency. TVA is beginning to take some significant steps towards capturing this resource and there are several big players in Tennessee’s energy efficiency industry, including Ameresco, Schneider Electric and others. They probably have some thoughts on how best to aggressively pursue this resource, and it’s well proven that investments in energy efficiency keep costs down, stimulates local investment and creates local jobs.

Renewable energy technologies will also play an increasing roll in meeting our energy demands over the next several years. Figuring out how best to build those markets and take advantage of the momentum already generated should be a top priority for our political leaders. It’s well documented that the costs of solar and wind energy are coming down rapidly while the costs of more traditional resources such as coal and nuclear are on the rise. In addition, developing local, distributed renewable energy resources provides local jobs and invests in local economies similar to investments in energy efficiency. As we look ahead to building a stronger, more sustainable economy, renewable energy must have a seat at the table.

Senator Corker’s failure to bring energy efficiency and renewable energy voices to the table in a discussion on energy and the economy indicates that he either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about the role that these resources can play in providing an affordable and sustainable energy future. Either way, we should expect better of our leaders.

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