Saturday, January 15, 2005

Western States to spend Billions$ on Renewables

Speakout: Good news about renewable energy
By Craig Cox, Special to the NewsJanuary 7, 2005
And now for some good news.
During the past year, in ways big and small, the Western United States has taken the lead in leveraging its rich resource base in clean, inexhaustible renewable energy technologies.

Working together and individually, Western political leaders, utilities and nongovernmental organizations are transforming the region's energy infrastructure.
Because of their work, the West is poised to assume a leadership role in the modern energy industry of the future.
These efforts will provide many tangible economic and environmental benefits throughout the region for years to come.
Here are just a few examples of how the West is laying the groundwork for a clean, reliable and modern energy infrastructure for the 21st century:
• Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Bill Richardson of New Mexico are leading regionwide efforts to increase clean energy development in the West to 30,000 megawatts by 2015. They sponsored a resolution to this effect that the Western Governors' Association adopted at its annual meeting in June.
• Colorado's voters, by a solid 54 percent to 46 percent margin in November, passed Amendment 37, creating a 10 percent renewable energy standard by 2015. Colorado is the 17th state to have such a standard, but is the first state to pass a standard by popular vote. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission will begin rulemaking activities to implement the standard this year.
• Richardson is spearheading efforts to build new transmission capacity from New Mexico (which has a renewable energy standard similar to Colorado's) to send hundreds, or possibly thousands, of megawatts of renewable energy to other states, such as California.
• Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal is pursuing new ways of upgrading Wyoming's energy infrastructure (such as transmission) to leverage his state's huge energy potential.
• In Nevada, Gov. Kenny Guinn and the state's Public Utilities Commission have implemented a "Temporary Renewable Energy Development Trust" that is expected to spur new projects that had been stalled because of concerns over utility creditworthiness.
• The Arizona Corporation Commission is looking to increase the state's renewable energy generation significantly, perhaps through creation of a standard similar to those in Colorado and New Mexico.
• Utilities regionwide are increasing their intake of renewable energy technologies:
Xcel Energy is reviewing bids for 500 megawatts of renewable energy projects in Colorado and has committed to accept all cost-competitive wind resource bids up to a 15 percent penetration level.
PacifiCorp is looking for up to 1,100 megawatts of renewable energy projects in its service territory.
Arizona Public Service will be seeking 100 megawatts of new renewable energy projects in the next year.
Idaho Power is seeking 200 megawatts of renewable power by the end of 2007.
California utilities, which operate under a 20 percent renewable energy standard, are seeking new projects throughout the state and the entire region.
All of this new renewable energy development will provide new jobs, significant new local and county tax revenues, and new economic opportunities for states around the West. The investment potential from wind energy development alone in the West is likely to run into the billions of dollars.
Rural and agricultural areas, which have not seen many new economic opportunities in recent decades, will reap particular benefits from many of these new developments, as new wind and biomass projects will mostly be located in rural parts of the West.
This increased investment in renewable energy technologies should also have a stabilizing influence on electricity prices, since the low fuel costs for most renewables (and no fuel costs for wind and solar) are stable and predictable.
As the West develops its sizable renewable energy resources, utilities are also looking at leveraging the region's coal resource in cleaner and more efficient ways. For instance, in a recent regulatory settlement with Colorado's environmental community, Xcel Energy has committed to support efforts to advance innovative technologies, practices and measures designed to reduce greenhouse gases.
Clearly, 2005 will mark a turning point for the West's energy infrastructure. This region is preparing to lead the world in the adoption and implementation of an energy infrastructure that will benefit its citizens and enhance the environment.
Craig Cox is the executive director of the Western Business Coalition for New Energy Technologies in Evergreen.