Monday, January 01, 2007

State Legislatures Gearing Up for Renewables Push

State legislatures will be opening new sessions soon, and, across the country, renewable energy initiatives are at or near the top of the priority lists.
  • Today on Treehugger, I took a look at Iowa Governor-elect Chet Culver's Iowa Power Fund proposal, a $100 million state investment in renewables. Culver also wants to create a "renewable energy czar" for the state who would report directly to him. He's thinking big, claiming that "People, I believe, like the idea of creating the Silicon Valley of the Midwest. They like the idea of Iowa perhaps becoming the first state in the nation to declare independence from foreign oil." Whether $100 million is enough to reach those goals is debatable, but it would certainly give the state's industry a shot in the arm...
  • A little further west, Colorado Governor-elect Bill Ritter also has big renewable plans, and also made them a centerpiece of his campaign. While Ritter doesn't have a firm figure in mind like Culver, he does have definite goals, including:
    • Expanding the amount of electricity produced by utilities derived from renewable-energy sources from 10 percent to 20 percent.
    • Requiring gas utilities to adopt conservation and energy-efficiency programs. Boosting the use of ethanol.
    • Seeking ways to make it easier for utility companies to build transmission capacity from the remote areas of the state where wind and solar power would be collected.
    • Adding energy-efficiency requirements to the construction standards for new state-owned buildings.
    • Seeking ways to create a state fund that would assist with major renewable energy or conservation efforts.
  • Even in Idaho, a redder state than either of the previous two, renewables and conservation are on the agenda. While details of a proposed are still in conflict, the Twin Falls Times-News notes "All lawmakers have publicly said conservation and renewable energy is important."
I'll probably get accused again of supporting subsidies (and I'm OK with that), but what I find particularly exciting here is the evidence of demand for such measures: most politicians are loathe to get in front of an issue unless a movement's already been built. Whether these proposals pass or not (although the first two look pretty solid), I'll bet we see green business growing in each of these states: clearly, there's a market.

Let me know what other states have got sustainability measures on the front burner -- this may well be the issue at the state level (and maybe the federal) in this new year.

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