More States Mandating Renewable Energy

by kespeland on July 11, 2008

The federally-funded Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (part of the consortium of national laboratories) has recently come out with a report on the status of Renewables Portfolio Standards around the country. I reported on the growing popularity of these programs, in which states mandate that all electric utilities get a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources. Kentucky isn’t implementing one. But 29 states now have them, including Illinois, which is requiring 25% of its energy portfolio to be from renewable sources (like wind, solar, and hydro) by the year 2025.

Some highlights from the report:

  • Most RPS programs are fairly new, and vary by state.
  • If utilities and states comply with their targets by 2025, they’ll add more than 60 gigawatts of additional renewables capacity. That’s enough to power more than 60 million homes.
  • Electricity rates in states with RPS programs are not significantly higher –about 1%.
  • Some states let utilities help meet their target with energy efficiency programs, as well as through buying renewable energy from other utilities.
  • Some states are struggling to achieve their self-imposed targets because the entire nation’s transmission capacity is pretty constrained. For example, it might be attractive to want to buy solar power from the southwest, but we might not be able to get it to Kentucky the way our infrastructure stands now.
  • The U.S. House passed a federal RPS bill in 2007, but the Senate put the kibosh on it.

Not every state has a robust variety of renewable sources.  Western states may have plenty of sun and wind, and even plenty of hydro.  But Kentucky, for example, doesn’t have those luxuries in abundance.  We do have biomass – which is organic material like wood chips, corn cobs, or even animal waste that can be turned into fuel.  Given the barriers, and the opportunities, should Kentucky have an RPS? Should the country?

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{ 2 comments }

Leslie Shockley July 14, 2008 at 10:07 am

As more people find themselves unablet o meet their basic needs, fewer people are gonig to care about the effects of pollution on the environment. If I am worried about having enough money to get to work, I probably won’t be worrying about the environment. I will, however, worry about my home energy costs rising. Even now LG&E is trying to raise our rates. What is a RPS going to do but funnel money away from those who need it?

Regardless of our economic situation, we should care about the environmental impact of pollution, in addition to our own pocket books.

What’s the solution? Net metering.

Some years ago, the federal government passed a law stating that if a person or business produces excess energy that they can send it to the local utility. If you have LG&E, and you have solar panels, you can send the energy that’s produced when you’re not using them and get credit for it. Your meter goes backwards.

From what I understand, there are currently federal tax credits for purchasing equipment and having it installed. Some states, and even local utilites, offer incentives too. But not Kentucky and not LG&E.

Why can’t we save energy, save the environment, and save people money?

Why don’t we have “smart” traffic lights, which take into account traffic flow so that my car is not idling at a stop light for 5 minutes when there’s not another car in sight? Wouldn’t that save me gas and cut down on pollution?

Why is TARC cutting services wile it raises prices when it could use this opportunity to set up a more acceptable transportation infrastructure? If they need an example, just look at Seattle.

Again, why can’t we save energy, save the environment, and save people money?

Kristin Espeland July 15, 2008 at 1:45 pm

Thanks for your comments, Leslie. I’d like to point out just a couple of facts. Kentucky does have a net metering law on the books – and has since 2004. But right now it’s limited to solar energy only. However, the Public Service Commission has recommended that the program be expanded to other types of electricity generation, like wind.

As for incentives for installing and using solar panels, you’re right: there are no state tax incentives. But outside state government, the Kentucky Solar Partnership offers low cost loans to eastern Kentuckians for solar water heaters.

I’m not suggesting we’ve got the perfect amount, and the best programs in place, but there are some. And you can influence the state’s direction when it comes to renewable energy by contacting your legislators and voting!

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