Energy Groups Want More Renewables in U.S. Midwest

A coalition of energy and environmental groups in the U.S. midwest wants renewable energy to provide 8 percent of the region’s electricity generation by 2010 and 22 percent by 2020.

WASHINGTON, DC – “The Midwest needs a strategic clean energy development plan that implements smart policies and practices to capture readily achievable environmental, public health and economic development benefits,” says the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the lead agency that wrote ‘Repowering the Midwest: The Clean Energy Development Plan for the Heartland.’ Other groups include Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, Iowa RENEW, Izaak Walton League of America, RENEW Wisconsin, Union of Concerned Scientists, Dakota Resource Council and Minnesotans for an Energy-Efficient Economy. “Whether the problem is chronic electricity shortages in California or soaring natural gas prices across the country, Americans are concerned about consistent, affordable energy,” and the report is a blueprint for developing energy options that diversify energy sources, increase energy efficiency, reduce pollution and help improve the reliability of the power supply. “Developing clean energy efficiency and renewable energy resources is the smart and sustainable solution to the Midwest’s pollution problems, to power constraints at summer peak demand times and to challenges in meeting the region’s overall electricity needs,” it explains. “Clean energy resources are the modern technologies for our 21st century energy future.” “The cost of renewable energy is plummeting as wind, biomass and solar power technologies have improved dramatically,” it adds. “The Midwest is poised to capitalize on these clean energy development opportunities. When it comes to wind power, the flat lands of the Midwest are valuable assets.” The cost for wind power is less than one-third of the 1981 price and close to competitive with conventional power sources. Six of the ten states with the highest wind power potential are in the Midwest, and Iowa and Minnesota have installed 500 MW of wind power since 1998, equivalent to the size of a typical coal plant. “Not coincidentally, two leading wind power businesses have recently located in the Midwest, providing good-paying manufacturing jobs and capitalizing on current and future market opportunities,” it says. “Still, the enormous potential of this growing industry remains largely untapped.” “The Midwest’s clean energy resources are here and ready to be developed. Our region is blessed with abundant wind resources, untapped biomass production potential and relatively high levels of solar power availability,” it continues. “These clean power options are technologically and commercially available today, and they can be obtained with only a modest increase in total electricity cost – 1.5 percent in 2010 and roughly 3 percent in 2020 that is far offset by the environmental and public health improvements and the economic and employment gains for our region.” “Substantial changes in public policies and business planning are necessary to achieve the benefits of implementing the largely untapped energy efficiency and renewable energy technology opportunities,” it argues. “Otherwise, the current portfolio of old, highly polluting coal and nuclear plants will remain overwhelmingly dominant in the Midwest for decades.” “Implementing the Clean Energy Development Plan will require thoughtful and aggressive action beyond business-as-usual practices and regulatory policies,” it concludes. “Energy efficiency and renewable energy resources are also hindered by a variety of market barriers that prevent them from competing fairly against coal and nuclear plants on a level playing field. Public policies to overcome these market barriers are needed to obtain the benefits of more energy efficiency and wind, biomass and solar power for a more diversified electricity portfolio in the Midwest.” To achieve the fundamental shift in energy policy, the report calls on each state to promptly establish a Renewables Portfolio Standard that increases steadily each year to reach 8 percent by 2010, and 20 percent by 2020. Each state should also establish a Renewable Energy Investment Fund that is supported by a charge of 0.1¢ per kWh to support the robust development of wind, biomass and solar power, and Congress should enact legislation to provide substantial matching renewable energy investment funds that can be used by the states to supplement or partially offset their investment funds. The Renewable Energy Investment Fund should be managed by an independent not-for- profit organization or foundation or appropriate public agency with supervision by environmental and consumer representatives, state energy officials and the renewable energy industry. Transmission pricing policies and power pooling practices must treat renewable energy resources fairly and account for the intermittent nature of wind and solar power operations, and their generally smaller scale and remote locations. Net metering should be enacted and implemented in all midwest states, with uniform safety and power quality standards, and federal and state environmental officials should apply clean air standards to small distributed generation sources so that clean power technologies are promoted and highly polluting diesel generators are discouraged. “The Midwest Clean Energy Development Plan is visionary, and it is practical and achievable,” concludes the groups. “It will require a dedicated and concerted effort by governors, legislators, regulators, the electric power industry, consumers and citizens to replace current, outdated power plants and practices with modern clean technologies and policy innovations. It will require specific steps to adopt and aggressively implement the recommended new strategies, policies, and practices.” “The Midwest public is ready to seize the opportunities to robustly develop our clean energy efficiency and renewable energy resources that will lead to better environmental quality and public health, improved electric system reliability and regional economic development gains,” it explains. “One or two states alone cannot achieve the full benefits of the Midwest Clean Energy Development Plan. As federal legislators consider more aggressive clean energy development policies and practices to secure national environmental benefits, balanced fuel portfolios and economic growth, we can and should lead the way here in the Midwest the nation’s heartland.” The document provides detailed plans for Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

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