While not all state legislatures have adjourned for the year, proponents of renewable portfolio standards (RPS) that drive adoption of wind energy can be heartened by the early results of the 2013 legislative session, says the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). Lawmakers in at least 20 states introduced bills to weaken state renewable energy policies, with little success.
The association credits strong data supporting the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy – coupled with broad public support – with helping to keep current policies intact.
AWEA says the organization, its regional partners and local advocates helped defend renewable energy policies in bellwether states, such as Kansas. There, $3 billion of private investment installed 1,440 MW of wind energy last year – fourth most in the nation – to help meet a 20% by 2020 state RPS.
Pro-renewable legislators even succeeded in improving the RPS in states such as Colorado and Nevada, while legislators in Connecticut passed a consumer-friendly measure to allow for long-term wind power purchases, locking in today's competitive wind prices for up to 20 years, AWEA adds. The association says results represent a potential for up to 2.5 GW of new wind power installations in those states over the next 10 years.
In addition, AWEA notes Nebraska, Texas and Oklahoma legislators approved tax-related measures that make their states attractive to wind development, and Minnesota launched a new study aimed at future improvements to its RPS.
While the main policy driver for the U.S. wind industry continues to be the federal production tax credit, AWEA says such state standards and incentives provide companies and investors with a patchwork guide to which states are ‘open for business.’
‘Lacking a federal clean energy standard, state renewable standards are a useful policy tool that helps states compete to attract new renewable energy business,’ says Susan Williams Sloan, AWEA's director of state relations. ‘A resounding bipartisan message was heard in state houses this year: In this economy, and especially in rural communities, you don't want to turn business away from your state and send it to your neighbors.’
In total, AWEA says 13 GW of new wind power were threatened by this year's anti-RPS bills and warns next year could see similar actions.
‘Some lawmakers may try to challenge these policies again,’ Sloan says, ‘but given a chance to work, RPS policies that attract wind development show benefits to landowners, electric customers and states, and we expect [such mandates] will continue to earn strong bipartisan support from legislatures.’