Right’s New Attack On Clean Energy Detailed

Attempts to roll back state renewable energy standards failed in recent legislative sessions, but the folks behind the efforts apparently aren’t giving up.

Representatives of three progressive groups on Wednesday said [PDF] newly obtained documents show that the American Legislative Exchange Council is readying a new  “anti-clean energy model bill” that could spearhead the next round of attacks.

image via Obama for America

image via Obama for America

ALEC has been around for years as an alliance between private industry and conservative state legislators, writing model pro-business legislation aimed at state governments around the country. Supporters have ranged from fossil-fuel interests like Koch Industries and Exxon Mobil to companies outside the energy sector, such as Coca-Cola, UPS and eBay. Last year, ALEC”s work on controversial “stand your ground” and voter-ID laws led some members to jump ship. The Solar Energy Industries Association ended its membership when the assault on renewable portfolio standards was revealed.

That effort was based on model legislation dubbed the “Electricity Freedom Act,” which led with this stark summary:

The Electricity Freedom Act repeals the State of {insert state}’s requirement that electric distribution utilities and electric services companies provide _____ percent of their electricity supplies from renewable energy sources by ____.

It didn’t work.

Colorado Energy News, citing research by the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University, recently reported that “(w)hile more than 30 states voted on or considered legislation this session to change their Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), only eight have enacted modifications or increases to existing policies and no state has rolled back an existing standard to date.”

According to the documents revealed by Checks & Balances Project, Center for Media & Democracy and Greenpeace, this time around ALEC plans to be a little less obvious about its intentions, pushing something called the “Market-Power Renewable Act” [PDF]. The model law would allow electricity providers to meet their renewable energy requirements with the purchase of renewable energy credits (RECs), including out-of-state credits. In addition, existing large hydropower plants, biomass and biogas plants would join the list of eligible sources.

“Including electricity sources from out-of-state or from large, existing hydropower plants would go against the spirit and purpose of the laws in many states to increase the incentive for local clean energy development,” the progressive organizations said. The ALEC model bill would also end renewable energy requirements after 2025.

ALEC maintains that it isn’t opposed to renewable energy, but simply ”believes that free markets in energy produce more options, more energy, lower prices and less economic disruptions.” The organization says, further, that “mandates to transform the energy sector and use renewable energy sources place the government in the unfair position of choosing winners and losers, keeping alive industries that are dependent on special interest lobbying.”

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • Mack Enchesee

    Honestly, these renewable energy standards are a really bad idea and a waste of limited resources. Cheap energy comes from coal, natural gas, nuclear and big hydro. We need all of this we can get. Renewables exist only because of the waste of recources called government subsidy. Lets stop with the subsidy nonsense and get with the creation of cheap energy. Cheap energy equals greater prosperity for everyone! Coal, yes! Renewables, NO!

    • renewableguy

      Whew…………… coal. Can’t say you are using your good judgement here. Solar is a peak load supplier naturally without having to turn on the natural gas. Germany now has negative costs due to solar because their lines are flooded with electricity. Solar will become cheaper even more so in the future and will be considered a disruptive technology in producing electricity.

  • jagiela

    Why shouldn’t we rollback these “mean green” programs that promote horribly expensive and environmentally unfriendly technologies when we could spend the money making nuclear power cheaper?

    • renewableguy

      Kind of a odd thing of having nuclear and cheaper in the same sentence. Nuclear has the highest quitting rate of building because it is just such a high risk to investors

      • jagiela

        Shows your unfamilarity with the economics- nuclear is only expensive due to the insane regulations that the West imposed in a pathetic attempt to appease the anti-nuclear movement.

        If you built plants like we did in the early days of the nuclear age, they were only marginally more expensive than the coal plants of the time- which didn’t have any of the basic emissions controls like scrubbers. You could build Maine Yankee or Quad Cities for less than a coal plant of today.

        Of course, the Indians and the Chinese know about this which is why there nuclear power plants cost about a third of ours.

        • renewableguy

          Nuclear has problems and there are plenty of them. It cannot get off the ground without gov support it is so expensive. It cannot get us a clean carbon future if it is ever done in time in the design phase. It is the most dangerous way to make electricity there is to local populations.

          http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/nucene/nucprob.html

          • jagiela

            Actually, your wrong. Nuclear doesn’t have to be expensive as was shown in the early days of the nuclear age and today as is shown in the Indian and Chinese nuclear programs

            Given the astronomical support for the “mean green” energy sources of the enviroterrorist movement (solar, wind, ethanol) nuclear gets by with very little government support and wouldn’t need it if it was regulated in a responsible fashion.

            The future belongs to nuclear- whether it be Chines, Indian or Korean is the only question

          • renewableguy

            Nuclear is expensive because it has to be managed extremely carefully. It has some pretty deadly consequences otherwise.
            Fukishima?

          • jagiela

            Fukushima- where the only one who died was the guy hit with a crane during a tsunami that killed 15,000

            Where three meltdown happened and no one can find a health effect?

            How does that compare to the millions killed by coal every year?

            The millions of people who are infected by the solar industry?

            Seriously, why don’t you learn something, anything, before posting?

  • alpha2actual

    Let’s examine the new math of the Renewable Energy Robber Baron crowd. Once the rate payers realize what they bought into a backlash will soon follow. In other words they’ll go ape.

    Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound has been approved. The project will cost $2.6 BILLON, and it has secured funding for $2 BILLON of that from a Japanese bank. But this is believed to be subject to the project gaining a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy. The contracted cost of the wind farm’s energy will be 23 cents a kilowatt hour (excluding tax credits, which are unlikely to last the length of the project), which is more than 50% higher than current average electricity prices in Massachusetts. The Bay State is already the 4th most expensive state for electricity in the nation. Even if the tax credits are preserved, $940 million of the $1.6 billion contract represents costs above projections for the likely market price of conventional power. Moreover, these costs are just the initial costs they are scheduled to rise by 3.5 percent annually for 15 years. This project is rated at 468 MW and will produce 143 MW after applying a Capacity Factor of 30.4 % the time the wind actually blows.

    A Combined Cycle Natural Gas plant studied by the DOE completed in 2010 is rated at 570 MW and produces 470 MW capacity factor 85%. Cost $311 MILLION.

    • renewableguy

      http://www.skepticalscience.com/graphics.php?g=11
      Cost of inaction on climate is huge. CO2 will heat the earth for centuries. In reality renewable energy is a bargain in long term investment. Fossil fuel short term thinking will make our futures more unbearable.

  • John R. Luongo

    The claim that renewable energy is too expensive is out-of-date propaganda. The price of clean, renewable energy is plummeting. In some parts of the U.S., it’s now almost as cheap to buy solar as it is to buy electricity from coal or gas. New estimates suggest wind power now costs customers about the same as natural gas in some areas and is even a little cheaper than coal. So it’s no surprise that clean energy is one of the world’s fastest growing industries, and already makes up 20% of the world’s energy supply. Best of all? When you use clean energy, you don’t have to pay for the millions of kids with asthma as a result of air pollution from coal. You don’t have to pay Middle Eastern dictators to hand over their oil supplies. And you don’t have to pay for the devastating financial and human impacts of climate change.

    I own a vacation home in Marin County in California. I participate in the local utility’s “Deep Green” program that guarantees 100% of my energy comes from Wind Power. My cost is an additional penny a kilowatt hour which works out to be the equivalent of two cups of coffee at Starbucks,

  • Dwight

    Renewable energy actually reduces electricity prices for businesses and consumers.

    A new analysis by Synapse Energy Economics on behalf of Americans for a Clean Energy Grid found that adding more wind power to the electric grid could reduce wholesale market prices by more than 25 percent in the Midwest region by 2020 — $3–$10 per Megawatt-hour (MWh) in the near term, and up to nearly $50 per MWh by 2030. Those savings would be passed along to consumers through lowering retail electricity prices by $65–$200 each year.

    The reason for this is surprisingly intuitive when you understand that electricity prices are based on the marginal (or operating) cost of the power plant generating the power. The marginal cost is essentially the cost of fuel, be it coal, natural gas, wind, etc. Since the fuel cost of renewable resources like wind and solar is zero, adding renewable resources always pulls down the market price of all the electricity sold in the market whenever it is available.