Families, small businesses, churches, and major employers in Arkansas all benefit from low-cost electricity. It is a key part of our economy and helps families to make ends meet. However, for far too long Arkansas has relied on antiquated, inefficient coal power plants to help keep the lights on. The largest and dirtiest power plants in our state were built in the 1970s and 1980s; these plants burn fuel that comes from coal mines in Wyoming.
We are now at the point of deciding as a state what the next generation of power plants will be to replace those 40-year-old clunkers. Luckily for us, a nearby source of inexpensive, clean, and modern power is available. I was greatly disappointed to see the recent op-ed in this paper attacking the use of wind power by Arkansas.
SWEPCO is proposing to bring cheap, clean wind power into Arkansas from the neighboring state of Oklahoma. Using steel, labor, and materials from Arkansas factories, SWEPCO wants to develop a wind farm in the windy plains to our west, and then deliver that power via a modern transmission line to its customers in western Arkansas.
The good news for SWEPCO customers is that wind electricity is inexpensive, and it's in fact cheaper than the cost of coal to make the same amount of power as the wind farm. Families and businesses in neighboring states like Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and Missouri are enjoying the low-cost benefits of wind electricity, saving customers money on their electric bills and lowering costs for employers so that businesses can hire more workers.
Further, global companies that are looking to build manufacturing sites, data centers, and high-tech hubs are demanding that utilities provide them with clean, renewable energy. Increasing the amount of renewable energy available in the Fayetteville area and across western Arkansas is key to attracting these kinds of employers to our state, bringing jobs for the next generations to come.
In addition to keeping rates low and helping Arkansas attract new employers and factories, clean, renewable energy will displace the heavily polluting sources of power that endanger public health while also worsening climate change. Our summers will keep getting hotter and hotter, and droughts longer and worse, unless we quickly replace our dependence on fuels like coal with clean energy from solar and wind power.
Faith leaders from all the world's major denominations and traditions support taking strong action to reduce carbon emissions and protect the climate. We have the opportunity of a win-win-win opportunity that will be good for families, good for employers, and good for a stable climate.
Arkansas has a choice. We can either stay tied to a more expensive, outdated power system fired by dirty coal, or we can gradually move to a less expensive, high-tech electrical grid based on renewables like wind energy that will power the companies and economies of the future. We should support SWEPCO's decision to add low-cost, clean wind energy to its energy mix for our state.
Terry Tremwel and Stephanie Garman are Arkansas Sierra Club officers and Northwest Arkansas residents.
Editorial on 04/23/2018