State Renewable Programs Under Attack:

Will the RPSs Fall?

A Republican effort to eliminate Colorado’s RPS has already failed, but the debate rages on in Missouri, Montana and Minnesota.

Michael Kanellos: February 11, 2011

State Renewable Programs Under Attack: Will the RPSs Fall?

Right now, the Republican-fueled attacks against state green energy programs face steep odds, but who knows — one of these could get through.

Legislators in Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri and Montana have introduced bills to curtail or eliminate the renewable portfolio standards in their respective states.

Some of these are clearly symbolic gestures, similar to the bill recently passed by the House of Representatives to repeal President Obama’s health care law. The three bills introduced in Colorado by Republicans have already been killed in committee. Colorado passed an RPS requiring utilities to get 10 percent of their power from renewable sources in 2004 and has amended it twice to bring the total to 30 percent. Democratic governor John Hickenlooper, an advocate of renewables, would likely have vetoed the bills.

Ditto in Montana. The state, although quite conservative, is one of the prime sources for wind power in the country. Two of the state’s largest utilities also don’t want to see the RPS repealed.

"Montana has wind, lots of wind. The state is ranked among the top five for wind power potential and several utility-scale wind farms are in operation. Montana currently has about 375 megawatts of capacity of commercial wind installed. But the state ranks 18th in actual generation," the state’s website says. 500 more megawatts are slated to come online later this year.

Missouri could present a challenge. Voters in the state passed an RPS requiring utilities to get 15 percent of their power from renewable resources by 2015 in 2008 after the legislature failed to pass a similar RPS. The new bill in Missouri, however, would not eliminate the RPS. Instead, it would permit utilities to fulfill the requirement by buying renewable energy credits instead of actually bringing solar and wind into the state. Thus, the bill isn’t a direct, frontal attack on a voter-approved initiative: proponents will likely argue it is just a tweak. Thus, indignation and opposition could become a little tough to muster. (Then again, switching to credits will let opponents argue that the new bill is just creating jobs in California.)

In Minnesota, the bill seeks to scrap an RPS that calls for 25 percent of renewables by 2025. So far, the utilities have met the required mileposts to meet the standard. (That beats California. The 20 percent by 2010 standard won’t likely be met by the state’s big three utilities until 2012, California state officials said today at a conference on energy storage sponsored by Alston + Bird in Palo Alto.)

Minnesota governor Mark Dayton, however, is a Democrat.

Green: it’s the new Evolution.

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