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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

Includes correction added May 23

Republican legislators in Montana, Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri are separately trying to weaken or dismantle the renewable portfolio standards in their states, which are seen as crucial to U.S. efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop a globally competitive clean economy.

Officials pushing the bills say that energy prices soar and consumers suffer when utilities are required to allocate a certain percentage of electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar. Clean energy groups counter that lowering the bar on state renewable energy policies would stifle new investment and kill jobs.

If passed, the bills would go against the trend among most states to strengthen standards and attract clean energy developers by creating a market for renewables, said Jessica Shipley, a fellow at the Washington-based .

"I suspect [the bills] have to do with the recent tough economic times and the concern that regulations impose additional costs on businesses," she told SolveClimate News. "But I wouldn't consider it a big movement to repeal RPS across the board."

Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia have mandatory standards in place, and seven states have renewable portfolio goals, according to . In the last two years, states such as California, New York, Nevada and Colorado have voted to increase or even double their requirements.

Shipley said that states act as a kind of laboratory of best practices and success stories for federal climate policy. President Obama in his State of the Union address last month called for 80 percent of the country's electricity to come from cleaner sources by 2035, such as solar, wind, natural gas, nuclear and "clean coal."

Warren Leon, a consultant to the Vermont-based , said he wasn't surprised to hear about the repeals.

"Budgets are tight at the state level, and people are rightfully looking at ways to save money. So a lot of ideas get thrown out there," he said.

However, he added: "Renewable generation diversifies the electricity supply and tends to make electricity prices less vulnerable to fluctuations in fossil fuel prices. In the case of and , where the [energy commissions] have evaluated their RPS's, they have found that ... the net effect is to lower electricity prices."

Montana: Wind Boom at Risk

In Montana, the total cost of power from the , a 135-megawatt wind farm run by developer , is under $40 per megawatt hour, less than the cost of power generated from traditional fossil fuels, according to from the (MEIC).

Kyla Wiens, a MEIC energy advocate, said that the attempt to repeal Montana's energy standards would pull the rug out from under wind developers looking to build more farms and capitalize on the second-highest wind energy potential in the United States.

aims to end the requirement that regulated utility companies get at least 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2015. The House Federal Relations, Energy and Telecommunications Committee will vote on the initiative this week and, if they approve it, send the bill to the House floor.

MD Gov Pushes Trash Burning as "Clean Renewable Energy"

Then there are the more insidious assaults on Renewable Porfolio Standards.

Despite ample evidence to the contrary, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley is promoting garbage incineration as "clean, renewable energy".

Maryland Senate Bill 690 and House Bill 1121 would bump incineration up from Tier 2 to Tier 1, providing significant financial incentives for burning recyclables, and undermining waste reduction strategies, such as quantity-based (pay-as-you-throw" trash fees.  This scheme that also benefits Wall Street pretty handsomely since most large incinerations are financed through massive public debt.

Mr. O'Malley's rationale for this is as bogus as his claims that building a highway -- one that George Bush fast-tracked, by the way -- would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It boggles the mind.... and might help explain why global warming is accelerating.

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