Wind turbines in McLean County, Illinois. (Photo by Tim Lindenbaum via Creative Commons)
Cross-posted from Greentech Media with permission
By Chelsea Barnes and Justin Barnes
Numerous schemes to scrap or diminish state renewable portfolio standard (RPS) policies have attracted a lot of national attention this year. Grim media forecasts for RPS policies, and the hefty renewables markets these policies facilitate, were not uncommon. These reports were worrisome to renewables supporters.
And for good reason. Meeting existing state RPS requirements will require 93,000 megawatts of new renewables capacity by 2035, according to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
That’s a lot of new renewables capacity. And a lot of investment.
Jeff Deyette is a senior energy analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Cross-posted from The Equation
By Jeff Deyette
Members of the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee heard testimony this week on two bills that would roll back Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. Backed by fossil-fuel funded special interest groups and their political allies, these proposals would undermine Ohio’s emerging clean energy industries and make the state even more dependent on coal and natural gas.
It is no coincidence that the primary sponsors of these bills are both members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Last year, the Washington Post, UCS, and others exposed ALEC’s scheme to deploy model legislation written by the Heartland Institute, and backed by deeply flawed and soundly refuted analyses from the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University, that would repeal renewable electricity standards (RES) now in place in 29 states.
ALEC, the Heartland Institute, and the Beacon Hill Institute all come to the table with dubious records of spreading disinformation to sow doubt about the scientific evidence on climate change and the consequences of tobacco use. Each has received funding from fossil fuel and tobacco interests.
So far, their campaign to roll back RES policies across the country has failed. Policymakers in states like Kansas and North Carolina exhibited sound judgment in rejecting the disinformation and repeal attempts. Likewise, Ohioans should be skeptical of claims about the Buckeye State’s clean energy policies coming from these groups, and the politicians who repeat them.
Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz, seen in this 2011 file photo, has tried for several years to weaken the state’s renewable energy laws. (Associated Press)
An Ohio lawmaker’s latest attempt to weaken the state’s energy laws is a “giveaway” for utilities that flies in the face of consumer and business interests, say critics.
The legislation, Substitute Senate Bill 58, is less ambitious than earlier attempts to repeal energy efficiency and renewable energy benchmarks set five years ago. The bill leaves those targets intact, but would eliminate an in-state requirement for renewable energy purchases and loosen efficiency rules for utilities.
Current law says 25 percent of Ohio’s electricity must come from renewable and alternative energy by 2025. Existing law also calls for a 22 percent cut in retail electricity sales by 2025.
At a hearing last week, sponsor Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati-area Republican, stressed that the bill keeps the mandates, “even though I would have preferred repealing them outright if left to my own choices.”
However, utilities will have to do less under the new bill.
“The meat and potatoes of this thing makes those benchmarks irrelevant,” says Dan Sawmiller of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal program. “That’s on both the energy efficiency side and on the renewable energy side.”
The Wood County wind farm in Ohio. (Photo by Lucas County Choppers via Creative Commons)
Five years after Ohio’s renewable energy standard took effect – and a few months before it will be challenged again in the state legislature – an economist with the state’s utility regulator tried to assess how the law was working out.
Tim Benedict’s verdict: “We’re seeing more of the good than of the bad.”
More specifically, his study concludes that the addition of renewable sources of power is modestly pushing down the wholesale cost of power in the state, while also reducing the amount of carbon dioxide produced.
According to Benedict’s calculations, the renewable generators now producing power have reduced the cost of wholesale power by about 0.15 percent. When his study looked at the projected power from all renewable projects that the state has approved, including those not yet operational, the figure is closer to 0.5 percent.
“This confirms what other studies have found,” said Rebecca Stanfield, a deputy director for policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “As we add renewables, the wholesale price of electricity goes down.”
Wind turbines near Rock Port, Missouri. (Photo by back stage via Creative Commons)
Development of solar and wind energy in Missouri has been sluggish compared to much of the nation, despite the 2008 passage of a referendum that instituted a renewable energy standard in the state.
A lawsuit filed on Monday alleges that state government has interfered with fulfillment of the law’s mandate.
“We have the facade of a renewable energy standard that is not making any meaningful change,” said P.J. Wilson, executive director of Renew Missouri, a not-for-profit that advocates for clean energy in the state.
Gabriel Elsner is the director of the Checks and Balances Project
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) continued its assault on state renewable portfolio standards (RPS) during its 40th annual conference in Chicago earlier this month, with members voting on model legislation that could limit the power of the laws to spark new clean energy construction.
Though bills meant to revoke or undercut renewable standards in numerous states failed last session, clean energy advocates say the model Market Power Renewables Act and the Renewable Energy Credit Act proposed by ALEC’s energy task force during the conference pose a fresh threat.
The Market Power Renewables Act argues for a “voluntary market” that would allow people to invest in renewable energy if they choose without instituting mandates, and it claims that such an approach could lead to more renewable energy development overall.
The Renewable Energy Credit Act would expand the types of energy that would count toward credits. It would also remove caps on the proportion of an RPS that can be met through credits – a provision now enshrined in many states’ laws. And it would also allow the renewable standard’s full term – for example through 2025 – to be met in advance by bulk purchases of credits to meet future requirements.
The Smoky Hills Wind Farm in Kansas, where farmers have become a strong constituency for renewable energy. (Photo by Brent Flanders via Creative Commons)
©2013 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Nick Juliano
Renewable energy lobbyists are undefeated this year in defending the state-level purchasing mandates that have helped fuel explosive growth in industries like wind and solar, and that streak looks set to remain intact as part-time state legislatures around the country are wrapping up their work for the year.
The tea party-fueled victories that reshaped Congress after the 2010 and 2012 elections also delivered substantial numbers of new Republican lawmakers to legislatures in states like North Carolina, where the state House and Senate both came under GOP control in 2010 for the first time since the end of the 19th century.
The newly elected lawmakers brought an influx of skepticism toward policies to promote clean energy, such as the renewable portfolio standards that require utilities to provide a minimum amount of energy from non-emitting sources like wind, solar and hydro.
At least a half-dozen states saw an introduction of legislation to repeal or weaken RPS laws, though none has been enacted. And renewable proponents were able to go on the offense in a few states like Colorado, where legislators voted to strengthen an existing RPS.
A bill in Missouri would allow energy from large hydro facilities, like the Table Rock Dam, to count toward the state’s renewable standard. (Photo by jeff brown via Creative Commons)
Ohio’s energy efficiency and renewable standards will be on trial again this year in the state’s legislature.
The Buckeye State is among a few Midwestern battlegrounds where lawmakers associated with a conservative policy group are working to freeze, repeal, or otherwise weaken renewable energy policies.
Others so far include Missouri and Kansas, where fossil-fuel-funded groups have actively attacked the state’s renewable standard at public events and legislative hearings.
The efforts follow a call to action last fall by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for its members to pass legislation repealing renewable standards in their home states.
“[ALEC] is definitely on the march,” says Gabe Elsner, who tracks oil and gas company lobbying for the Checks and Balances Project, a nonprofit watchdog group.
Solar panels at the University of Illinois, Chicago. (Photo by Adam Gimpert via Creative Commons)
When Chicago voters approved municipal aggregation on Election Day, some celebrated the possibilities offered by breaking with utility ComEd for alternative providers, while others worried whether it would be a wash or even a blow for renewable energy.
Paul Fenn, a Bay Area energy law and policy expert known as a father of the community choice aggregation (CCA) movement – roughly the same concept as municipal aggregation – cast his lot with the former group.
Chicago officials have stressed that cost savings are their priority, and local experts say the impact on renewables remains to be seen, especially since a fix to the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard is needed to spur renewable growth.
But Fenn thinks that with an aggressive and creative approach, Chicago can have its cake and eat it too – generating cost savings while sparking a boom of local and regional renewable energy construction; creating solar, co-generation, wind and other energy installations owned largely by the city and individual residents.
He thinks that in five years, Chicago could be getting 50 to 75 percent of its energy from local or regional renewables. He envisions rooftop solar PV on homes, businesses and municipal buildings; wind or solar installations on vacant land, co-owned by surrounding neighbors; waste heat captured from downtown buildings and factories to generate hundreds of megawatts of electricity. And massive investments in energy efficiency to greatly reduce the city’s overall energy demand.
A screen capture from an ad by the utility-backed Clean Affordable Renewable Energy for Michigan opposing Proposal 3.
In September, a Lansing, Michigan, based polling firm surveyed the state’s electorate, and found that 55 percent of Michiganders supported Proposal 3, a ballot measure that would have strengthened the state’s modest renewable energy standard by requiring the state’s utilities to obtain 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025. At the time, only 34 percent opposed it.
But on Election Day, 62 percent of the state’s voters rejected Proposal 3, stunning renewable energy advocates and forcing them back to the drawing board.
So what happened? And what lessons can be drawn from Proposal 3’s defeat?