Energy Self-Reliant States Get A Boost From New Federal Study

Date: 3 Jun 2010 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States, Press Release | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Minneapolis, MN (June 3, 2010) – A new study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) reinforces the findings of a 2009 report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR).  The ILSR report, Energy Self-Reliant States, concluded that all 50 states could generate at least 25 percent of their electricity needs from in-state renewable energy while 31 could generate over 100 percent.  

NREL’s Western Wind and Solar Integration Study (WWSIS) approached the issue from a transmission perspective and answered the question:  is it preferable to rely on in-state renewable energy generation and existing transmission lines or to build extensive interstate high-voltage transmission lines to send renewable energy from states with somewhat better renewable resources to those with poorer resources?

The WWSIS examined five southwestern states – Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming.  It found that each state could generate at least 35 percent of its electricity from local renewable resources (5 percent from solar, 30 percent from wind) without negatively impacting the electricity system.  Moreover, it found the additional cost of state-level energy self-reliance to be trivial, a 1.5 percent increase over the cost of building over 10,000 miles of interstate high voltage transmission lines, while the additional benefits to individual states would be quite substantial.

“This slight cost differential is a small price to pay for states to maximize the economic benefit from their in-state renewable energy resources,” remarked Farrell, co-author of Energy Self Reliant States.  “What state would choose to import renewable energy instead of capturing investment capital and clean energy jobs within their borders?”

WWSIS found that a state-based renewable energy strategy would distribute new renewable electricity generation relatively evenly throughout the five states.  A more centralized strategy dependent on delivering electricity on new long distance transmission lines might save $1.2 billion (less than 1.5% of total costs) but end up concentrating almost 60 percent of all renewable electricity generation in just one state, Wyoming.  The prospects for clean energy economic development in other states would fall dramatically, an astonishing reduction in wind energy investments of some $18 billion in Arizona, $10 billion in Nevada and $8 billion in Colorado.   

Says Farrell, “The data in the WWSIS offers state policy makers a choice.  They can allow thousands of their citizens to live by 150 foot transmission towers running through a 200 foot swath of denuded landscape and possibly have their land seized for this purpose by eminent domain, or they can pursue an energy self-reliance strategy and gain thousands of new jobs, create locally owned projects, and facilitate billions of dollars of investments in the rapidly growing renewable energy industry.”   

"Ideally, a future study by NREL will focus on individual states and look at how distributed renewable energy development inside of a state compares to centralized development inside a state and how distributed development can utilize the existing in-state grid most effectively," said ILSR senior researcher, John Bailey.

The NREL study is available at  More information on Energy Self-Reliant States and other research on decentralized renewable energy generation is available at


Contact: John Farrell or John Bailey for more information, 612-276-3456.

About ILSR and the New Rules Project

Since 1974, ILSR has worked with citizen groups, governments and private businesses in developing practices that extract the maximum value from local resources.  A program of ILSR, the New Rules Project focuses on local, state and national policies that enable that goal.  For more visit or

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John Farrell

John Farrell directs the Energy Democracy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and he develops tools that allow communities to take charge of their energy future, and pursue the maximum economic benefits of the transition to 100% renewable power.