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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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Wallowa County, Oregon, United States

Oregon has a strong rural character. It covers almost around 259 000 km2 and is heavily forested. The precise degree of rurality of the state varies depending on how it is measured; there are a number of ways to define rural and urban areas in the United States, including one methodology specific to Oregon (Crandall and Weber, 2005). Under the census system (which defines a place with 2 500 or more as urban and the rest rural) 99% of the land in Oregon is rural and this area is home to 31% of the inhabitants. The OMB1 and ERS2 system (based to some extent on census tracts and commuting patterns) better reflects the connections between rural and urban areas. In the county-based OMB approach the “non-core” counties have 38% of the land and 4% of the population while the tract-based ERS system counts 68% of the land and 10% of the population as rural. Thus, under the OMB and ERS approach “roughly 15% of the land area and three-fourths of the population lives in metropolitan areas” (Weber, 2005). The Oregon-specific geographic classification was created to reflect the diversity of rural areas, an aspect not well handled by the other systems (Crandall and Weber, 2005). In this latter approach, an urban community is one with 50 000 or more inhabitants and the surrounding area within 10 miles (16 kilometres) of these cities, and rural areas are those areas at least 30 miles (48 km) by road from an urban community.

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