Renewable energy is not the political wedge it once was

As the 2020 election ramps up, renewable energy simply isn’t the wedge issue it once was — a trend that’s borne out in recent polling data from a post-election survey of midterm voters by the Conservative Energy Network and CRES Forum. The poll, which was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and WPA Intelligence from Nov. 8 to 12, found that a significant majority of U.S. voters (81 percent) across all party affiliations said they would vote for elected officials who support clean energy development such as wind and solar.

While 81 percent of survey respondents also said they would support government action to accelerate the development and use of clean energy in the United States, including over half (54 percent) who said they strongly supported such action, a significant majority (eighty-three percent) favored more competition in energy markets, with the ability to choose the source and type of energy they use.

ADVERTISEMENT

In other words, clean energy, especially innovation brought about by smart market-oriented policies, has gone from a losing issue in Republican circles to something conservative candidates can run on — and win. 

Conservatives are increasingly recognizing renewable energy as a solution to address the serious challenges facing our economy, electricity grid, ratepayers' wallets and natural resources. This sea change in conservative attitudes toward clean energy will have a significant impact on local, state and national elections moving forward, with more candidates running on “all of the above” clean energy platforms than ever before.

The trend isn’t surprising when we consider research and anecdotal evidence from states around the country showing energy diversification that emphasizes clean energy and energy efficiency creates jobs, reduces energy costs, and improves our national and grid security.

In fact, a study by The Hill Group in 2018 showed that increasing the percentage of electricity sales from renewable energy sources to 12.5 percent in one state — Michigan — would create a potential gross economic impact of nearly $3.8 billion by 2019. That includes 20,100 job-years supported and nearly $1.4 billion in employee compensation. Boosting the percentage to 15 percent by 2021 increases the economic impact to $6.3 billion. That number jumps to $10.3 billion in 2027 if the state can hit 30 percent renewable energy. With free market policies that encourage competition and customer choice, these numbers are not a pipe dream.

According to the polling data, voters of all political stripes agree. Among those surveyed, 78 percent of voters believe America is capable of creating a new electricity system that benefits the environment, accelerates the availability of new technology, and creates more choices by opening up markets to competition. 

We’re already seeing the conservative clean energy movement at work. Conservative governors across the country understand the strong connection between energy and economy and are positioning their states for success in the national — and increasingly global — market. For instance, under the leadership of Republican Governor Kim Reynolds, Iowa, a leader of wind energy in the nation behind only Texas (another red state that has emphasized more energy competition and subsequently lower rates for its residents).

The clean energy economy isn’t the future — it’s here now. Voters recognize that innovation in the energy sector is sparking local investment, creating local jobs, and growing the tax base of local economies. It’s critical that our elected officeholders listen to their constituents — and support policies that open energy markets to more competition from clean energy sources like wind and solar that will drive job creation and economic growth, ensuring both a bright economic and clean energy future.

Mark Pischea is the president of the Conservative Energy Network.