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President Trump rattles the Middle East, saying the U.S. will recognize Israel’s authority over the Golan Heights. Also on our Friday rundown: A judge blocks laws limiting the power of the new Wisconsin governor. Plus, momentum builds across party lines to abolish the death penalty.

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KY Lawmakers Hear of Economic Boost from Clean-Energy Standards

On Thursday, Kentucky lawmakers heard about the economic benefits of requiring utilities to use more renewable energy sources. (Greg Stotelmyer)
On Thursday, Kentucky lawmakers heard about the economic benefits of requiring utilities to use more renewable energy sources. (Greg Stotelmyer)
January 29, 2016

FRANKFORT, Ky. - A Kentucky-based environmental consultant says the state can no longer afford to miss out on clean-energy jobs.

The House Economic Development Committee was briefed Thursday on the need for a Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard. The standard, which requires utilities to gradually increase their use and purchase of renewable energy, is law in 29 states.

Environmental management and policy consultant Randy Strobo, a Louisville attorney and professor, told lawmakers that the standard, known as REPS, would create jobs and "saves money, improves efficiency, improves public health and invigorates the economy."

According to Strobo, Kentucky generates only 3 percent of its power from renewable sources. A REPS law would require investor-owned utilities and rural electric cooperatives to increase that to 12.5 percent by 2026. Strobo claimed the demand for electricity would shrink. and utility bills would be lower than without the standards.

North Carolina set standards in 2007. Daniel Brookshire, regulatory and policy analyst for the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, told Kentucky lawmakers that it's created thousands of jobs.

"Most of the firms are in energy efficiency, so they're doing weatherizations. - that's the bulk of the sector," he said, " and then, that's followed by solar."

The 2015 North Carolina Clean Energy Industry Census, released this week, estimated that the industry generated $7 billion in revenue last year, a 45 percent increase over 2014. Brookshire said there were 26,000 full-time jobs in clean-energy fields last year in North Carolina.

State Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, plans to model legislation to create a Kentucky standard on the North Carolina law. There, it's estimated that investing in clean energy over building new power plants will save North Carolina ratepayers $651 million over a 20-year period - a figure not lost on Marzian.

"If you look at saving our ratepayers $651 million," she said, "these are folks that'll be spending that money in your communities."

Marzian said she will introduce legislation in the near future.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY