Action call: Renewable Power Standards and the Senate Email Print

The Senate is considering, amid all the energy legislation, instituting a nation-wide renewable power standard (RPS).  

Oh ... boring ... the snores have begun ...

No

Actually

CRITICAL to moving toward a prosperous and sustainable energy future.  

Take two minutes ... just 2 minutes ... to write your Senators to urge them to support a minimum of a 15 percent RPS by 2020 ...

Confused, follow over the fold to learn more about RPS and why they matter.

So, some questions for the curious ...

What is a Renewable Power Standard?

The Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) is a flexible, market-driven policy that can ensure that the public benefits of wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal energy continue to be recognized as electricity markets become more competitive. The policy ensures that a minimum amount of renewable energy is included in the portfolio of electricity resources serving a state or country, and -- by increasing the required amount over time -- the RPS can put the electricity industry on a path toward increasing sustainability. Because it is a market standard, the RPS relies almost entirely on the private market for its implementation. Market implementation will result in competition, efficiency and innovation that will deliver renewable energy at the lowest possible cost.

In short, an RPS provides guidance to electric utilities as to what percentage of their power (at a minimum) must be derived from renewable resources.  The utilities, in essence, can then determine how best to meet that renewable power requirement. And, all consumers share in the costs (if they exist) to reach that renewable power generation level, just as they share in the benefits (such as reduced pollution and economic development).

Why do we care?

The RPS provides a path for creating an upwards -- guaranteed -- glide slope of demand for renewable power generation.  A nationwide RPS (even if inadequate at 15% by 2020) would help to foster this upward path of ever increasing renewable power generation.

Currently, polluters have a free ride. It is the Tragedy of the Commons, there is no current path where fossil-fuel power generators pay for the greater damage they create. It is in the common good to increase renewable power generation, but right now that increase relies too much on the good will of individuals (who buy green power or invest in renewables on their own homes) rather than sharing the costs, risks, benefits, and rewards over a larger base.

Truth be told, in the long term (cost to own), the RPS will lead to a far less expensive electrical system (with lowered fuel costs, reduced health impact, more economic activity surrounding renewable power) but it is the hurdle cost of the cost to buy (that capital investment in wind turbines, for example) that too often keeps us from enough investment in renewables.

For a short presentation re RPS from a business/financial perspective, see this slide show from the Regulatory Assistance Project.

So, if they're so good, why don't we have them?

Actually, many of us do (much of US does) have RPS.  As of Feb 2007, 23 states had Renewable Power Standards.  The RPS numbers can be somewhat confusing, for example, New York's RPS requires 24 percent renewable power by 2013. That sounds quite impressive until realization sets in that this counts the 19% of New York's electricity that currently comes from existing hydro-electric dams.  Hmmm ... Well, five percent new renewables is a nice, but not overwhelming aggressive, target.  In any event, the 23 states have RPS standards for the 2020 that range from 10% (Delaware, 2019) to 25% (Minnesota, 2025).

The benefit of this legislation: the other 27 states (plus territories). And, it would set a minimum bar which we could then work to improve.  (After all, Governor Richardson has called for 30% by 2020 RPS, nationwide, as part of his call for an Energy Revolution.)

IN OTHER WORDS, this is a good thing.  A real step forward that has meaning on many fronts. A path to help Energize America (though we call for 20% by 2020).  Send your Senators a note to urge them to support a minimum of a 15 percent RPS by 2020 ... The draft letter you will find there:

There is no question that America can break our dependence on dirty, dangerous fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy. We can supply power to millions of homes and businesses by harnessing homegrown energy from the sun, wind, crops and more.

But with global warming threatening our future, energy prices surging, and war raging in the Middle East, we need leaders in Congress to take action.

I urge you to support legislation to require that utilities generate at least 15 percent of America's electricity from renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, geothermal, ocean and biomass power by 2020.

For me, I added: "While I would prefer an RPS of 25% by 2020, this 15 percent national standard would help move the nation forward to a more prosperous and sustainable energy future. Please ensure the standard only counts new renewable power sources and not already existing renewable power (like the 70 year old Hoover Dam). This is something that all Americans should embrace."

Energy Efficiency combines with Renewable Power as our path toward shutting down coal and GHG-emitting electricity as soon as possible.  Electricity is responsible for a third of US GHG emissions. As the new renewable power should displace polluting sources, the RPS would represent a real silver BB in our path toward a sustainable energy future.

Save Our Environment: This call to action came from SaveOurEnvironment.ORG, "a collaborative effort of the nation's most influential environmental advocacy organizations harnessing the power of the internet to increase public awareness and activism on today's most important environmental issues."  If you haven't ever visited there, consider taking a look. They have some quite interesting links and resource materials, such as to the Garderner's Guide to Global Warming (pdf) from the National Wildlife Federation for all you green thumbs out there.  

Energy Smart

Ask yourself:  Are you doing your part to ENERGIZE AMERICA?


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Poll

Have you spent the two minutes?
Written my Senators! 19%
Will write! 66%
Thinking about it ... 9%
Past my letter writing quota ... 4%
Forget it ... let's burn some coal ... 0%

Votes: 21
Results | Other Polls
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