American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)

Bill to repeal North Carolina’s RPS passes House committee

Bill to repeal North Carolina’s RPS passes House committee

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North Carolina Representative Mike Hager, the bill’s chief sponsor, is a member of ALEC, which is attempting to overturn or weaken RPS policies in 19 states

A bill to repeal the US state of North Carolina’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) has passed a committee of the state’s House of Representatives 11-10. The bill must now pass more committees, the full House and the North Carolina Senate before it can go to the governor to be signed.

House Bill 298, the “Affordable and Reliable Energy Act” was Electricity Freedom Actintroduced by House Majority Whip Mike Hager (R), and three other members of the state’s Republican Party. The bill is one of many state-level efforts to repeal RPS policies that have been advanced by Republicans through a national effort by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

“This is simply the wrong move at the wrong time,” said Ivan Urlaub, Executive Director of the NC Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA). “No good ever comes when you pass laws based on a mistaken premise and the assumption underlying this bill that the REPS law raises electricity rates and costs jobs could not be further from the truth.”

The next step for H298 is the North Carolina House Commerce and Job Development Committee.

State gains 21,200 “job-years” through clean energy policies

NCSEA cites a report by RTI International and La Capra Associates Inc. which shows that North Carolina consumers stand to gain more than USD 173 million in cost savings between 2007 and 2026 due to the state’s clean energy policies, including the RPS.

The same study also showed that North Carolina also gained 21,200 job-years from 2007 to 2012 through these policies.

RPS includes solar thermal, solar carve-out

North Carolina is one of the few utilities to pass an RPS in the US South, a region which is dominated by large utility monopolies, who generally hold regressive stances towards renewable energy.

The state’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard mandates that private utilities in the state move to 12.5% renewable energy by 2021. The policy lists solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal technologies including solar water heating as eligible technologies, and mandates a minimum of 0.2% solar by 2018.

Effort to dismantle RPS policies in 19 US states

Chief sponsor Hager and at least six other sponsors of the bill are members of ALEC, a right-wing non-profit that is funded by fossil fuel interests including coal giant Peabody Energy (St. Louis, Missouri, US) and Koch Industries (Wichita, Kansas, US).

ALEC members in states legislatures have brought forward legislation in at least 19 US states to repeal, freeze or weaken RPS policies, based on the “Electricity Freedom Act”, model legislation drafted by ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force.

Several of these efforts, such as the one in Kansas, have been defeated. However, bills in Ohio, New Hampshire and Virginia have become law.

Bills inspire SEIA, AWEA to leave ALEC

As RPS policies represent the largest single policy effort to mandate the switch to renewable energy for electricity production in the United States, this effort is firmly aimed at stopping the nation’s limited renewable energy progress.

Following the introduction of this legislation, both the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA, Washington DC, US) and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA, Washington, DC, US) left ALEC. SEIA also cited a lack of support for other legislative efforts.

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Politics Threaten Kansas’ Wind Energy Market

What would happen if wind power had a success story?  After all, alternative energy development is a key Obama goal, as well as the goal of millions of Americans looking to get away from polluting fossil fuels for a variety of good reasons.  Would opponents still try to kill the programs anyway.  If you live in Kansas, the answer is, unfortunately, ‘yes’. (all words in italics are mine)

According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Kansas is leading the U.S. in new wind farm installations this year. By the end of the year, eight new utility-scale wind projects will come online – representing approximately $3 billion in new investment – and the state will have more than doubled its installed wind power by adding 1.489 GW of new wind power capacity.

Sixty percent of the nearly 1.5 GW that will be placed in service this year will be exported. The balance will remain in state to fulfill the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) objectives. (Kansas’ RPS is 20% of peak demand capacity by 2020.) Of the existing 1.076 GW of wind power, the vast majority is used in state, and roughly 8% is exported to nearby Missouri. Power from the new projects will be exported to Missouri Electric Cooperative and Tennessee Valley Authority customers.

For example, TradeWind Energy, a Kansas-based wind developer, is sending wind power from a project developed in Oklahoma to customers of Southern Company. Meanwhile, BP Wind is constructing the 479 MW Flat Ridge 2 wind farm as major oil and gas developers are fracking the ground below. And Siemens’ wind turbine nacelles, manufactured in Hutchinson, Kan., are being deployed across many new Kansas wind farms.

Wow!  That’s pretty damn good.  But…

Stormy political clouds
However, all of this progress is threatened by the looming expiration of the production tax credit (PTC) – despite the backing of such staunch conservatives as Gov. Brownback, among others.

Statewide, the political attitude toward wind energy has also changed. Kansas’ congressional delegation has traditionally been supportive of an “all of the above” energy policy and transmission development, but that changed when these representatives were ousted in Kansas’ recent primary elections.

In the August primary elections, the State Senate moved decidedly conservative, and the State House may have tilted further to the right as well, placing further uncertainty on the short-term prospects for wind energy in the state.

Therefore, the future of wind energy development in Kansas faces a confounding future, and the 2013 legislative session will be very telling.

Two prominent state legislators vying for House and Senate positions are also currently on the board of directors for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative-oriented policy forum for state legislators. Moreover ALEC’s board of directors is contemplating model legislation to encourage legislators to repeal all state RPS programs.

Despite policy uncertainty at both the state and federal level, however, there is one constant: Kansas still has a rich and plentiful supply of high-capacity wind that can provide low-cost, renewable energy.

And the far-out radical right and the corporations who pay ALEC to write and promote legislation so that climate change will continue to be denied and the use of polluting fossil fuels will continue ad nauseum are undercutting the benefits to their own state, their own constituents, to push a radical agenda.

Wake up Kansas!

To read all about how Kansas politicians want to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory at the expense of a politically uninformed electorate, please click here