Earlier this month, Wendell Berry, the Kentucky author and poet, occupied the governor's office with 13 others for four days to protest government support of coal, while 1,000 protesters held a demonstration against mountaintop removal mining at the state Capitol.
EPA Bashing 'Temporary Diversion'
Len Peters, secretary of the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, told SolveClimate News that the pro-coal lawmakers introduced the bills as a way to show EPA their displeasure, and have even acknowledged that the state would lose substantial federal Clean Air Act funding if they're passed.
Peters said the bills are merely a "temporary diversion" from Gov. Steven Beshear's long-term goals to diversify the state energy supply, which includes a to get 25 percent of Kentucky’s energy demand from energy efficiency, renewable energy and biofuels by 2025.
The proposed on the House floor, H.B. 239, would take the Democratic governor's initiatives even further.
Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, a Democrat from Louisville, introduced the bill earlier this month to establish a renewable and efficiency portfolio standard (REPS) for the state.
Under the mandatory standard, renewable sources would account for 12.5 percent of utility retail sales by 2021, and utilities would achieve annual efficiency savings of up to 10.25 percent of retail sales in that period by reducing demand from manufacturers, businesses and homes.
Jason Bailey, research and policy director for MACED, said that the House measure would take the first steps needed for a green energy transition.
MACED is part of the (KySEA), an organization of 30 businesses, nonprofit organizations and faith groups that drafted the bill.
First Signs of Green Manufacturing
"We've built an economy around cheap electricity from coal-fired power that is coming to an end," Bailey told SolveClimate News.
"What we're really talking about for the next 10 years is that we need to take the first steps to position ourselves for the next phase, where by all indications, because of technology and policies, clean energy alternatives will take off [nationwide]."
Bailey said the REPS could help attract clean technology industries in an otherwise pro-coal state.
"You see a real correlation between states that are friendly to renewable energy and the location of renewable energy component and system manufacturing," he said. "Manufacturers want a market for their products, and if Kentucky itself is not purchasing renewable energy systems, then it makes us less appealing. They want to go where the market is."
Kentucky is starting to encourage green manufacturing ahead of its renewable energy market. Last August, the state received in federal stimulus funds from the to distribute clean energy tax credits and grants.
Since then, the state finance authority has given Alternative Energies Kentucky Inc. preliminary approval for up to $390,000 in funding to build around 25,000 to 30,000 solar panels a year at its plant.
also received a $28.6-million tax credit to make electric power steering gears for vehicles that consume 90 percent less energy than traditional hydraulic gears. in Louisville received $11.3 million of the same credit to make residential-scale heat pump clothes dryers, which use half the energy of standard dryers.
Defining Renewables: Are Biomass, Coal Clean?
Not surprisingly, state officials and green groups differ in defining how to develop actual renewable energy sources in Kentucky.