Renewable energy has begun to gain the support of conservative groups as it becomes more economically viable. One such group is the recently formed Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum, which aims to educate conservatives about energy possibilities in the state.
According to their website, the organization supports the development of local clean energy, strongly emphasizing the economic benefits that renewable energy already has on the state economy, specifically through job growth.
On a national scale, renewables do make a strong contribution to energy jobs.
According to a 2017 report by the Department of Energy, solar technologies alone make up 43 percent of the electric power generation workforce. This is more than coal, oil and natural gas combined which together account for 22 percent of the employment in this sector.
Even so, renewable energy still makes up a fraction of the total energy produced.
The Energy Information Administration reported that in 2016 renewables still made up around eight percent of electricity generation in Wisconsin, while the vast majority of the state was powered by coal.
Shiba Kar, assistant professor and sustainable energy specialist, said that there are still policy barriers which may deter investment in renewables. He said that the energy market is highly influenced by subsidies which affect what type of energy production is competitive or not. For this reason, he said leveling the playing field would help new technologies emerge.
“The question is how much we are putting in this renewable and emerging industry versus how much we are subsidizing the fossil fuel industries,” Kar said.
Seth Huttner, senior natural science major, and member of College Republicans feels that conservatives should have a voice in the energy discussion. He said that he is open to renewable energy as part of the energy equation as long as the shift is driven by the market.
Huttner said, “It comes down to this for me, I want something cheap, plentiful and reliable.”