Bill Could Help State Tap into Renewable Energy

Wyoming’s abundant sun, wind and earth can be used to diversify and expand the state’s energy portfolio and economy while helping protect its environment according to studies into the use of renewable energy. But the transition to renewable energy requires leadership and vision. That leadership could be embodied in a new, state-wide renewable energy commission under proposal this month in the state’s legislature.

“Many economic development professionals simply don’t know that there are business development and job creation opportunities in energy efficiency and renewable energy,” said Scott Kane, the owner of Creative Energies, a Lander-based renewable energy company. “Wyoming has tremendous opportunity to design policies that will create high-paying jobs and grow our local and rural economies while also protecting the environment.” To capitalize on this opportunity, Representative Jane Warren (D-Laramie) is introducing a bill before the state legislature this month that will establish the Wyoming Renewable Energy Commission. The commission will be charged with developing strategies and legislative recommendations to diversify and expand energy production and distribution systems in Wyoming. “Wyoming could be on the cutting edge of creative and long-term development of renewable resources,” Warren said. “This commission will take a comprehensive look at everything from energy use and production in the state to increased efficiency and conservation. With this information we can move into a more balanced, sustainable energy future.” The bill has been criticized as unnecessary because further development of Wyoming’s energy potential is limited by the lack of transmission facilities in the state, but proponents argue such an interpretation of the legislation misses its scope. “The commission will also be addressing a number of equally important topics such as energy efficiency, solar power for homes and businesses, renewable fuels, and energy efficiency standards for buildings,” Kane said. “None of these topics are affected by limited transmission capacity.” The commission would also likely consider the establishment of a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) for Wyoming which would call for new renewable power sources to be added incrementally over a period of 15 years or more. Already 18 states have enacted similar legislation leading to many new renewable energy developments. “Wyoming would have an ample window of time to develop our interstate transmission capacity during that time,” Kane said. According to the Renewable Energy Policy Project — an organization funded by a mix of government agencies and private nonprofits and dedicated to the advancement of renewable energy technology — investment in renewable energy installations tends to remain in communities by creating jobs and fueling local economies. The use of renewables also reduces dependence on foreign and/or centralized sources of energy, and is an important strategy in the process of creating a secure and sustainable energy future. “Across the nation, communities and rural landowners are becoming savvy about the value of their wind resource,” said Representative Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne), a bill co-sponsor. “Community-based projects are already working for individual ranchers and farmers, local utilities, and schools. This bill will help make it easier for Wyoming’s residents to tap into our renewable energy resource.” “Tremendous interest has recently developed, even within the oil and gas industry, in the increased use of renewable energy resources?” said Jim States, President of the Wyoming Outdoor Council Board of Directors and environmental scientist at the Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center in Casper. “This trend is just now gaining real momentum.”
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