Rural America could power a renewable economy – but first we need to solve coal debt

By Joe Smyth, Clean Cooperative

As prices for new wind and solar projects continue to drop, renewable energy is booming across the United States, surpassing coal earlier this year for the first time ever. And most renewable energy projects are built in rural areas, harnessing abundant wind and solar resources. Yet the electric cooperatives that power most of rural America remain particularly reliant on coal – in part because of billions of dollars in debt on increasingly uneconomic coal plants.

Solving this coal debt problem in rural America is the focus of a new report by the Center for Rural Affairs, We Own It, and CURE (Clean Up the River Environment). Rural Electrification 2.0: The Transition to a Clean Energy Economy explores strategies that policymakers and electric cooperatives could pursue to restructure or eliminate debt that is currently tied up with uneconomic coal plants. Continue reading here.

NRECA Infographic: While electric cooperatives have begun to add more new renewable energy projects in recent years, overall they still remain more reliant on coal than other utilities. According to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, coal accounts for 40% of electric cooperatives’ fuel mix, compared to 27% nationally. – Joe Smyth

Smyth’s list of recommended reading on electric cooperatives and coal debt:

He also provides a list of further reading on presidential candidates’ plans on climate, energy, and food.