ILSR report: Most states can be energy independent

By Susanne Retka Schill
Web exclusive posted Nov. 14, 2008 at 11:26 a.m. CST

The Minneapolis-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance released a report in mid-November suggesting that at least half of the 50 states could meet all their internal energy needs from renewable energy produced within their borders, and the vast majority could meet a significant percentage. The report, "Energy Self-Reliant States: Homegrown Renewable Power" estimated on a state-by-state basis, the amount of electricity and transportation fuels that could be generated by biomass, wind and solar energy.

"We believe our estimates are conservative," said David Morris, vice president of ILSR. "Yet even with these conservative assumptions, the dramatic conclusions should lead to a major revision in key federal and state energy policies."

The report, which examined each state's resources, argued that national policy should change its focus from relying on long distribution lines that focus on renewable energy to select sites with abundant sources. According to the report, agricultural states in the Midwest can grow biomass in larger quantities and at a lower cost than other states. Furthermore, a state like Nevada has significantly more annual solar energy than Oregon; and North Dakota's high wind speeds translate into lower production costs. However, while significant variations in renewable energy among states exist; in most cases, when transmission or transportation costs are accounted for, the net cost variations are quite modest.

"Renewable energy is unique because some form of it is available everywhere," said John Farrell, an ILSR research associate and one of the report's authors. "But federal policy unaccountably supports centralized renewable power and provides incentives for heavy investments in a nationwide transmission infrastructure to get that energy to the final customer. That's regrettable because homegrown and locally owned renewable energy is almost always cheaper, especially when you factor in social, environmental and economic benefits."

The "Energy Self-Reliant States: Homegrown Renewable Power" report is available online at