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Linking Renewable Energy to Rural Development

image of Linking Renewable Energy to Rural Development

In many OECD countries, governments have invested large amounts of public money to support renewable energy (RE) development and are requiring significant quantities of it to be sold by energy providers. But what are the economic impacts of these policies on the rural regions where deployment takes place? How can RE bring the greatest benefit to host regions? These are some of the questions explored by this study. Drawing on case studies in 16 regions within 10 countries, the research finds that while RE indeed represents an opportunity for stimulating economic growth in rural communities, its development benefits are not automatic. Realising them requires a complex and flexible policy framework and a long-term strategy, as well as a realistic appreciation of the potential gains from RE deployment.  Making a positive connection between RE development and local economic growth will require more coherent strategies, the right set of local conditions, and a place-based approach to deployment. 

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Maine and Vermont, United States

Maine and Vermont are predominantly rural areas with low population density. The two states are both significantly more rural and less densely populated than the US average (Table 18.1), with Vermont being the least populated state in the US. Vermont is also one of the smallest states with only 23 960 km2 of land. Maine covers more than 90 650 km2. Maine’s residents are located mostly along its Atlantic Ocean border. The largest city, Portland, contains a metropolitan area with over 500 000 people and is also located on the Atlantic coast. The rest of the state has low rolling mountains covered in trees (90% forested). Vermont is also largely forested (77%) but has slightly more rugged terrain, with the Green Mountains running the length of the state. It is the only state in New England that does not border the Atlantic Ocean. However, its largest city, Burlington (with a metropolitan area population of over 200 000) is also located on a body of water, Lake Champlain. Maine and Vermont maintain a strong cultural identity typified by the New England region that is inextricably linked to its landscape and history. In line with the national trend, both states have experienced outmigration from their rural areas. However, while Vermont’s population has declined overall, in Maine the population has been concentrating in main urban areas.

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