Efforts to Slow Renewable Energy

Efforts to Slow Renewable Energy

June 11, 2014 | By Keith Martin in Washington, DC

Efforts to slow renewable energy fail in three states, but lead to a freeze in one.

An organization backed by the wealthy Koch brothers has been making a concerted push to roll back renewable energy standards that require utilities to supply a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable energy in 29 states and the District of Columbia. The effort has been running into opposition from some Tea Party groups that see distributed generation as a move toward democratization of the electricity supply.

 In Oklahoma, the lower house in the state legislature failed in May to take up a bill that would have imposed a three-year moratorium on construction of new wind farms in the eastern third of the state, effectively killing the bill for the current session. The bill passed the state Senate by 32 to 8 in March.

The Kansas house failed in early May by a vote of 60 to 63 to phase out the state renewable portfolio standard. The current standard requires utilities to supply 20% of their electricity from renewable energy by 2020. An effort to repeal the standard failed earlier in the year. The latest vote was on a compromise to increase the current 10% target to 15% in 2016 and then to eliminate the target after 2020.

A federal district court in Colorado rejected claims in May by the Energy and Environment Legal Institute that the Colorado renewable portfolio standard violates the commerce clause of the US constitution. The Institute argued that Colorado is effectively forcing its policies on electricity generators in neighboring states who want to supply electricity to Colorado utilities, thereby inhibiting interstate commerce. The court did not buy the argument. The case is Energy and Environment Legal Institute v. Epel.

The Ohio legislature voted in May to suspend its renewable portfolio standard for two years while a legislative panel studies the issues. The state requires utilities to supply at least 25% of electricity from renewables by 2025. The action freezes the target at current levels through 2017. If the legislature takes no further action after the panel reports its findings, then the 25% target would be reinstated, but utilities would have another two years until 2027 to comply.

by Keith Martin