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State Renewable Energy Standards Under Attack from GOP Legislators

Legislators in Montana, Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri are trying to weaken or dismantle RPS policies, creating instability in clean energy markets

By Maria Gallucci

Feb 9, 2011

The is backing the bill, along with an effort to lift a moratorium on new nuclear plants, which passed in the Senate early this month, and a bill repealing a ban on building large coal-fired power plants, which cleared its first House committee last week. Newly elected Gov. Mark Dayton, the first Democrat to be elected to the position in 20 years, promised in his campaign to reject efforts to lift the nuclear ban.

Linda Taylor, clean energy director of the St. Paul-based advocacy group , said that she was cautiously optimistic that the RPS initiative wouldn't make it to the House floor when it is heard in the next four to five weeks.

"A lot of bills have been introduced that would roll back energy policy in Minnesota by about 15 or 20 years, but the vast majority of them will never get heard and probably not pass. Renewable energy and energy efficiency have strong support across political boundaries," she said.

Still, she added: "We are worried. It is not pleasant to be in this situation where we are constantly on the defensive mode trying to keep good policy in place."

Missouri: Farm Communities 'In Limbo'

In Missouri, legislators are poised to remove the geographic sourcing component of , a 2008 law that requires investor-owned utilities to provide at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021, of which 2 percent must be solar energy.

The RPS maintains that utilities must either generate energy from Missouri-based renewable sources, or directly import it from out of state — a common provision among state energy standards.

Last summer, the voted to remove the provision that the RPS apply to "all power sold to Missouri consumers," allowing for utilities companies to instead purchase renewable energy credits (RECs) from any wind farm or solar plant worldwide, versus utilizing actual clean energy from a Missouri development or regional plant.

The House and Senate passed similar bills last month, and the Missouri General Assembly presented Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon with their proposal on Feb. 2. The governor has until next week to approve or veto the law.

Renew Missouri, a clean energy advocacy group that wrote Proposition C, says the law would slam the door on future renewable energy development in Missouri.

A geographic sourcing provision, they argue, creates local demand and attracts projects that bring jobs and investment to the state. It also reduces air and water pollution caused by fossil fuel-burning electricity plants that give off harmful greenhouse gases, which affords Missourians the benefits of clean energy.

"We currently have communities across the state that are in limbo because [wind farm] developers are not fully moving ahead until they have more certainty as to how the rules will apply to our RPS," said Josh Jones, an organizer for the group.

"With this new interpretation of the rule, those developers almost certainly are going to shy away from moving forward on investments as they see that the market for renewable energy in Missouri has essentially evaporated overnight," he said.

Jones pointed to by the University of Missouri St. Louis that predicts the RPS would create more than 9,500 direct jobs and generate $2.9 billion in direct economic activity in Missouri over the next two decades by encouraging cleantech developers to set up shop in the state.

Missouri now has 457 megawatts in installed wind energy and less than 1 megawatt in solar capacity.

Pew Center's Jessica Shipley, however, said that while the in-state provision does bolster clean energy sectors in Missouri, allowing utilities to purchase RECs wouldn't necessarily weaken the RPS.

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