The renewables rollercoaster - a wild (and scary) ride in some parts of the U.S.

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By Liz Enbysk

SGN Managing Editor

 

It's a wild ride for renewable portfolio standards across the U.S., where there are efforts under way in some states to crank them up even higher, and moves to roll them back in others.

 

One extreme example is in North Carolina, where The News & Observer reports that earlier this month Republicans introduced legislation in the state House that would end the requirement that power companies in North Carolina use renewables and promote energy conservation programs.

 

Seriously?

 

According to the news report, the bill's prime sponsor is state Rep. Mike Hagen, who is a former Duke Energy engineer. His beef? He thinks energy generation choices should be based on a least-cost basis rather than government policy. You can read more about the debate in North Carolina here.

 

But the South isn't the only place where the free market argument has gained traction. In Ohio, for instance, renewables advocates fear a state Senate review of the state's 25% renewables in 2025 and energy efficiency mandates could end up dismantling them.

 

The Columbus Dispatch reports there have been several attempts by business groups to change the rules, suggesting that is what's behind the Senate review. And Forbes quotes an Ohio senator who reportedly wants to repeal the state's RPS as saying "the choice of energy supply should come from the demands of the free market, and not from policy makers and environmental lobbyists." You can read more about the debate in Ohio here.

 

In Kansas, meanwhile, a recent effort to weaken that state's 20% renewables by 2020 law didn’t muster enough support in the state Legislature. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the bid to undo the renewables requirement came from Grover Norquist, described as an anti-tax conservative who heads Americans for Tax Reform.

The flip side: We want MORE renewables

Where some see renewables heaping more costs on consumers, others see more jobs and economic growth. That seems to be the case in Minnesota, anyway, where the Pioneer Press reports a coalition that includes clean energy, business, labor and religious groups is calling for half the power produced in the state to come from renewables by 2030.

 

The current standard in Minnesota of 25% by 2025 was set in 2007.

 

The group announced the launch of its "Minnesota Clean Energy and Jobs" campaign earlier this month and its package of proposals has sponsors in the state Legislature.

 

The Pioneer Press says a regional Xcel Energy VP issued a statement expressing caution on the proposals, saying in part: "Regarding the costs of renewable energy, the vast majority of renewable power on our system is wind power, and it has been cost-effective and has provided a good value for our customers. We also have small amounts of other renewables in our portfolio -- biomass and solar power -- which currently are far more expensive than wind. That's why we advocate a cautious approach."

 

In New York, a group of scientists and energy analysts have put together a plan they say could lead the state to eliminate fossil fuels and nuclear power, including for transportation, by 2050. The New York Times account of the plan says it calls for improved energy efficiency and adoption of renewable electricity sources as well as hydrogen fuel cells generated with renewable energy.

 

In Pennsylvania, a state representative has introduced legislation to increase renewable energy production by raising the standard from the current 8% by 2021 to 15% by 2023.

 

It's not only states wanting in on the renewables action. The Energy Collective reports that two cities in California – Lancaster and Sacramento – are taking the steps to boost renewables within their city limits by leveraging innovative financial programs. In fact, Energy Matters notes if Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris has his way, all new home construction in his jurisdiction will be required to have solar power systems installed.

 

There's more happening in other areas of the country too; we just scratched the surface here. If you'd like to use the Comment form below to explain what you're seeing in your neck of the woods, please do. Or if you'd like to argue one side of the debate or another, have at it.

 

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