WASHINGTON—While not all state legislatures have adjourned for the year, proponents of Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPSs) that drive adoption of wind energy can be heartened by the early results of the 2013 legislative session. Lawmakers in at least 20 states introduced bills to weaken state renewable energy policies, with little success.
Strong data supporting the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy – coupled with broad public support – can be credited with helping to keep current policies intact.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), its regional partners and local advocates effectively defended 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-percent-by-2020 state RPS. Across the country, local and regional voices including farmers, for whom wind energy is a new cash crop, economic developers, manufacturers, and others affirmed their support for renewables policies that work.
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. The results represent a potential for up to 2,500 megawatts of new wind power installations in those states over the next 10 years.
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, 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," said 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."
Wind farms are being built in most states in the country, and state governments want to do what they can to continue to attract them to their communities. The results include new land lease payments to local farmers, additional taxes paid to counties, and more lasting investments like new factories and maintenance facilities. In total, 13 gigawatts of new wind power (enough to power over 3 million homes) were threatened by this year's anti-RPS bills.
In Colorado, legislators spent a major portion of their session discussing expanding their current RPS. Last week, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 252 into law, which will double the amount of renewable energy that rural electric cooperatives are required to procure.
"Some lawmakers may try to challenge these policies again," Sloan said, "but given a chance to work, RPS policies that attract wind development show benefits to landowners, electric customers and states, and we expect will continue to earn strong bipartisan support from legislatures."