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Renewable Energy Standards Advance in Four States

The states of Kansas and West Virginia recently adopted their first mandatory requirements for renewable energy use through so-called renewable energy standards, while Maine and Nevada have boosted the requirements under their renewable energy standards.

The Kansas legislation requires the state's utilities to draw on renewable energy to meet 10% of their peak demand by 2011, 15% by 2019, and 20% by 2020. The renewable energy sources can include wind power, solar energy, existing hydropower, new small hydropower, various forms of biomass energy, and fuel cells that use hydrogen produced from a renewable energy resource. New facilities earn 10% extra credit toward the requirement.

Kansas is also allowing easy interconnection and net metering for customer-owned renewable energy systems, and those systems can count toward the requirement. Utilities can also meet a portion of the requirement by buying renewable energy credits. The legislation also requires energy efficiency standards for buildings owned and leased by the state and sets fuel economy standards for state-owned motor vehicles.

West Virginia is a coal state, and its new credit-based system allows for both renewable energy and mostly coal-based "alternative energy resources" to meet its new standard. The state requires its electric utilities to hold credits for at least 10% of their retail sales by 2015, increasing to 15% by 2020 and 25% by 2025.

Renewable energy facilities normally earn double credits, but they earn triple credits if the facilities are located on reclaimed surface mines. Customer-owned generators also earn credits that can be sold to the utility, while utilities can earn credits through energy efficiency and demand management initiatives, as well as projects that reduce or offset greenhouse gases. Eligible renewable energy resources include solar energy, wind power, geothermal energy, biomass power, run-of-river hydropower, and fuel cells. Alternative energy resources include advanced coal technologies, waste coal, coal bed methane, fuel from coal gasification or liquefaction, synthesis gas, natural gas, tire-derived fuel, pumped storage hydropower, and energy reclaimed from waste heat.

The changes in Maine and Nevada are far more straightforward. Maine has passed legislation  that provides a 50% extra credit toward its renewable energy standard for community-based renewable energy projects. Nevada has simply extended its renewable energy standard, which previously topped out at 20% for 2015 and after. Under the new legislation, the standard increases to 22% by 2020 and to 25% by 2025.

Kevin Eber is a senior science writer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. In that capacity, he has promoted energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies for nearly 20 years.

This article was first published in the U.S. Department of Energy's EERE Network News and was reprinted with permission.

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