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Sierra Club poll shows support for Oklahoma wind energy

A poll commissioned by the environmental group found most Oklahomans would support phasing out coal-fired power plants and installing more wind capacity. But large utilities such as Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. say fuel diversity helps keep prices low.
by Paul Monies Published: September 7, 2012
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Whitney Pearson, state organizer for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, said the poll shows Oklahomans support a transition away from coal and toward clean-energy alternatives.

“Oklahoma is lucky to have an abundance of natural resources available right here at home, unlike other states that are making the decision to transition off coal,” Pearson said.

Brian Alford, OG&E spokesman, said the poll leads to incomplete conclusions.

“The answers aren't as simple as phasing out coal generation or natural gas generation and replacing 100 percent with wind or solar,” Alford said. “We all know how hot it gets in Oklahoma, and wind doesn't blow just a whole lot in the summer. We're using more and more electricity as a state, and meeting that demand requires multiple options.”

WindChoice option

Stan Whiteford with PSO said the utility has signed up 669 customers in its WindChoice program, which started in March 2011. The program allows customers to pay an extra $1.72 for 100 kilowatt hour “blocks” of electricity generated by wind. PSO has more than 520,000 customers in the state.

The poll also touched on energy efficiency, with 72 percent saying they would strongly or somewhat support paying a little more for utility energy efficiency programs. Another 25 percent said they wouldn't support higher bills for that purpose.

“Energy efficiency is about eliminating waste out of the system. It's not about sitting in a cold, dark room — it's about sitting in a comfortable room that uses power in a smarter way,” said Temur Akhmedov, energy solutions business developer at ES2 in Oklahoma City.

Alford said OG&E has been a leader on smart-grid technology and continues to sign up customers to its Smart Hours program, which allows customers to alter their usage during more expensive, peak-demand times.

“They are saving money and helping to reduce demand on the system,” he said. “We don't want to have to build new incremental generation until at least 2020, and these programs will help get us there.”

by Paul Monies
Energy Reporter
Paul Monies is an energy reporter for The Oklahoman. He has worked at newspapers in Texas and Missouri and most recently was a data journalist for USA Today in the Washington D.C. area. Monies also spent nine years as a business reporter and...
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About the recent poll

The Sierra Club poll surveyed 500 registered Oklahoma voters on Aug. 25-27. It had a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points and was done by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, N.C.

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