While the issue of clean energy was just one of the myriad of topics discussed at last night's presidential debate, a new study finds that it should be top of mind for big business in the state. Specifically, researchers found that manufacturers will see significant savings over time as the president's Clean Power Plan is implemented.
Dr. Marilyn Brown, a Tennessee Valley Authority Board member, and the study's author said, "Industry is the one sector of the economy that uses the most fossil fuels directly on site so the pollution consequences of large-scale growth of industry is more concerning than large-scale growth of say household consumption."
Brown, who works for Georgia Tech, found that if states were to adopt a low-cost Clean Power Pathway to compliance, U.S. industries could realize a cumulative savings of $442 billion over the next 15 years. That could be used for plant modernization, product improvements, and even to help grow local jobs. Some manufacturers are challenging the Clean Power Plan in court, arguing that the law exceeds the EPA's authority.
Earlier this month, the Alliance for Industrial Efficiency ranked Tennessee 13th in the country when it comes to potential carbon reductions with the Clean Power Plan. Specifically, the state would see a savings of almost $21 billion over a 15-year period.
Jennifer Kefer, the executive director of the organization said working to reduce the nation's carbon footprint can't ignore one of the biggest contributors to emissions.
"The industrial sector is the nation's largest energy user," she said. "It represents about one-third of U.S. energy demand, and so it's virtually impossible to take on climate change without tackling emissions from the industrial sector."
Brown said in addition to the potential savings for manufacturers, adopting policies in the Clean Power Plan can facilitate the creation of new jobs across sectors.
"Money spent on plant modernization or product improvement, expanding the customer base for these products leading to business growth, local jobs, all kinds of benefits," Brown explained.
If no action is taken on the part of industries to incorporate clean energy in their manufacturing, Brown said their energy bills would rise by 44 percent over the next 15 years.