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Southern states use much more electricity per capita than other states. This is partly because of the region's hot, muggy summers, but it also flows from differences in state policies, practices and economies. For instance, Kentucky homes and businesses use 73 percent more electricity per capita than the national average, but Floridians use only 7 percent more. The chart to the right highlights Southern power consumption per capita, according to 2003 U.S. Department of Energy figures.

As the South grows and changes, its energy policy should also mature. Modern economies increasingly place value on exactly the resources degraded by our current power generation system-clean air and water and a healthy environment for children, workers and seniors. As the global economy develops, clean energy solutions will be in increasing demand. Many states, including in some cases Southern states, have tested proven ways to reduce pollution, avoid the need for so much power generation and to shift generation to renewable technologies. Southern communities and states should adopt these policies, adapting them for specific needs, and build on them to become clean energy leaders.

Recommendations

Recommendation 5: Each Southern state should create a Public Benefits Fund that invests 2 percent to 3 percent of utility bill charges into strategies that boost energy efficiency, generate more renewable energy and provide low-income energy assistance.

Recommendation 6: Adopt energy-efficient appliance standards so consumers aren't forced to buy outdated technology.

Recommendation 7: Southern states should set a "Renewable Energy Standard" that requires utilities to get an increasing share of energy from renewable sources.

Talking points

  • Southern states are power hungry - - Southerners have a higher per capita use of electrical power than people in any other region.

  • While Southern power rates are relatively low compared to the rest of the country, Southerners pay more in per capita annual spending on power than most other Americans - - because they use so much more electricity.

  • Because the cost of power has been relatively inexpensive, Southern states haven't pushed to generate energy savings. In fact, they've been clinging to outmoded ways of generating power. Now is the time for the South's energy policies to mature.

  • But if states would focus on reducing energy consumption, such as by adopting stronger appliance efficiency standards, residents would save money and cut pollution. Adopting such standards in the South would save as much energy as that supplied by 10 average power plants.

  • Additionally, states could focus on new strategies to save energy. One example is use of a Public Benefits Fund, which would allow states to pool a small portion of consumer utility bills into a fund to reward energy efficiencies, generate more renewable energy and provide low-income energy assistance.

  • States could also emphasize renewable energy by requiring utilities to get an increasing share of its energy from renewable sources.

  • Such renewable energy requirements would work in the South, which generally hasn't tapped into major resources of wind, solar and other types of renewable energy. By using these sources of energy, the South wouldn't have to build as many power plants, which would cut future pollution in a big way.

  • Like state governments, local governments can get into the act by adopting energy standards and efficiencies, and by focusing on renewable energy strategies.


As this chart from Chapter 3 highlights, most Southerners pay more per year for energy per capita -- even though their rates are relatively low. Bottom line: Southerners have a lot of capacity to realize savings through efficiencies and othe rmeasures.

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