Sooner State Could Become Well Known for Renewable Energy

Perhaps no other state is more connected — culturally and economically — to fossil fuels than Oklahoma.

After all, it’s the only state whose seat of government sits atop an oilfield — a fact driven home by the decommissioned well that still stands south of the state Capitol.

As I saw when I visited recently, Oklahomans are rightfully proud of their energy history. I hope they are equally as excited about their clean energy future.

Oklahoma is poised to be a leader in renewable energy — to power the nation through the 21st century, just as it powered us through the last one.

In turn, Oklahomans are playing a critical role in making America more energy secure, boosting our global competitiveness, and training the workforce of the future.

This would not be a surprise to anyone who has seen the hundreds of wind turbines dotting the horizon near Custer City. Of all 50 states, Oklahoma is already the fourth-largest generator of renewable energy, with enough wind, solar, and energy storage capacity to power all of the state’s households, two times over. In fact, in 2021, wind alone supplied more of Oklahoma’s electricity generation than natural gas for the first time.

This energy diversity should give families and businesses peace of mind that if one source faces disruptions, another will be ready to keep the lights on. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is investing to add new tools to the state’s energy toolkit and incentivizing the private sector to deploy them in communities of all kinds. And more homegrown, affordable clean energy will save Oklahoma households money on their utility bills.

Oklahoma is also showing its potential to become a clean energy manufacturing hub. Since the start of the new administration, companies have committed to invest nearly $3 billion in the state alone. Among them is USA Rare Earth, which announced plans to site America’s very first rare earth and critical minerals processing facility in Stillwater — and create 100 new jobs in the community.

Just within the past couple of years, companies have announced plans for more than 150 battery manufacturing and supply chain facilities alone, which will create tens of thousands of new jobs. Making parts, manufacturing products, and developing supply chains here at home are critical to winning these industries of the future. We want people all over the world to be able to buy equipment that’s proudly stamped “Made in America.”

As with manufacturing, the clean energy sector is also bringing new construction and operations jobs to the state. In 2021, there were more than 3,600 jobs in solar, wind, and hydroelectricity — a marked increase since 2020, and representing over half the total workers employed in power generation.

And Oklahoma’s students are ready for those opportunities. I saw this at Oklahoma State University, where I met with students participating in Department of Energy’s Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) program. These future engineers are using cutting-edge technologies to help local manufacturers figure out how to increase energy efficiency and slash costs at their facilities.

Their work is so impressive that we announced OSU will soon host one of our five new IAC Regional Centers of Excellence. And we’re expanding the program to replicate what they’ve accomplished at community colleges and trade schools across the Great Plains.

During my visit last week, I got a sense of the excitement and possibility in the state. As synonymous with fossil fuels as Oklahoma is, the Sooner State is on its way to being just as known for renewable energy.

Who knows? One day, there might even be a wind turbine standing near the Capitol, too.

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