Advanced Energy Means Growth for Arkansas (Steve Patterson Commentary)

Now that we know who will be working from the White House, Capitol Hill and the state Capitol for the next few years, it’s time to set priorities concerning what they can do for Arkansas — and, especially — for our state’s economy.

At the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association, we believe national and state commitments to energy efficiency, renewable energy, natural gas and alternative fuels are key.

More than 11,000 of our fellow Arkansans are already working in the advanced energy economy, according to a recent employment analysis by the Advanced Energy Economy Institute.

These workers develop building controls and install efficient HVAC systems. They make high-performance products like office equipment, glass and shades. They build wind turbines. They develop new biofuels. And they have been successful. The jobs data shows that the advanced energy industry is establishing a strong foothold in the Arkansas economy. In fact, since 2003, our advanced energy sector — now numbering some 90 companies — has been growing faster than Arkansas’ economy as a whole.

With our strong bioenergy resources, strategic location as a wind manufacturing hub, robust transportation system, low cost of living and access to university research and training, Arkansas has great capacity for continued growth in the advanced energy sector that could rival neighboring states like Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri.

At AAEA, we hope the newly elected Legislature will continue to support Gov. Mike Beebe’s initiatives on wind component manufacturing. In fact, we’d like to see the initiatives expanded to include solar component manufacturing. And we hope legislators will remove barriers to energy-efficiency programs that can save Arkansas families and businesses money.

At the national level, too, we need policies that encourage homegrown American sources of energy. We need policies, including tax rules and other incentives, that foster an “all of the above” energy strategy, one that goes beyond the old fuels of the past and embraces emerging technologies as well.

Worldwide, energy consumption is expected to rise by about 49 percent by 2030. Meeting the demand will require advanced energy: products, technologies and services that are affordable, clean and secure over the long term.

Clean energy is already a large and fast-growing sector, attracting some $260 billion in investment last year alone. And American companies and workers are proving to be highly competitive on the global energy scene. For example, U.S. nuclear exports totaled more than $2 billion in 2009, while net U.S. exports of solar photovoltaics hit $1.9 billion in 2010.

AAEA’s members are not politicians. They are businesspeople from every part of the state, focused on growing their enterprises, making money and creating jobs. So they come at energy issues not from an ideological or political perspective, but from a businessperson’s practical point of view. They believe that growing our state’s share of the advanced energy economy means more jobs, more energy independence and lower energy bills. They know that policies that encourage the development of this sector are good for the businesses and families of Arkansas.

And they stand ready to help all our leaders — in Little Rock and in Washington, D.C. — build a better future for us all.

Read Article at Arkansas Business.