Promoting Clean Energy
Electricity generated from clean sources, such as wind and solar, is part of our diversified energy future. Numerous states have led the way by requiring utilities to generate a certain amount of energy from renewable sources. California, Texas and Minnesota lead the country in electricity produced by wind turbines. Congress has also considered establishing a nationwide renewable electricity standard to increase the amount of electricity generated from non-fossil and non-nuclear fuels. The League has successfully advocated for clean energy policies and is committed to constructive engagement with utilities, regulators, and other stakeholders to further develop these renewable sources of energy. Some of our activities are described below.
Renewable Energy Standards
In 2007 the League successfully led an effort to pass one of the most aggressive Renewable Electricity Standards (RES) in the nation, second to California. Minnesota's RES calls for the state's largest utility to procure 30 percent of its electricity from clean resources by 2020 and all other utilities to generate 25 percent of their electricity from clean resources by 2025. The Minnesota standard is a beacon in the Midwest, a region known for its renewable energy resources, and is estimated to result in over 6,000 new wind turbines installed in the coming years. In order to ensure that these new wind resources have adequate access to the nation's electric transmission grid, the League helped incubate the organization Wind on the Wires, solely dedicated to this purpose.
Wind Energy & Wildlife
Modern utility-scale wind energy facilities have enormous environmental benefits by producing pollution-free electricity at very low cost. It is important that wind retain its "green" attributes and minimize any harmful impact on birds, bats, and wildlife habitat. While the risk of bird kills is very low, especially compared to cumulative effects of other human activities, concern is growing about wind energy facilities as the industry expands. The League is a member of the Wind and Wildlife Working Group of the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative and we continue to work with the wind industry and conservation representatives to promote sound research and environmental review on issues related to wind energy facilities’ risks to birds, bats and other wildlife.
Small Power Production
The League has been involved in a process to create rules to connect small generators (solar cells, small wind turbines, etc.) to utility electric lines. So called “distributed generation,” allows customers to generate electricity at their homes or businesses and sell the power they don’t use back to the electric company. The League has led a diverse coalition to ensure that rules for small generators were fair and equitable. In 2004, Minnesota’s energy regulators made final rulings that will be positive for small power producers, in spite of continuing cost barriers for this emerging sector.
Midwest Renewable Energy Tracking System
In July of 2007, the Midwest Renewable Energy Tracking System (MRETS) came online, which was a major two year effort by the League and its partners. Like other market-oriented approaches to environmental regulation (e.g., the trading of pollution credits under the Clean Air Act), tracking of renewable energy production allows market participants (e.g. utilities) to eventually trade credits representing specified amounts of renewable energy. This will help keep the costs of producing renewable energy down by encouraging production at the best locations. In order to get the MRETS established, the League assembled a team of utilities, regulators and other groups that made recommendations to regulators from Illinois, Iowa, Manitoba, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin on the technical design, governance and financing of the regional credit tracking system.