Energy goals a moving target for states

Posted on December 7, 2008. Filed under: Energy Policy |


From an article by Kate Galbraith and Matthew L. Wald in the New York Times:

In hopes of slowing global warming and creating “green jobs,” Congress and the incoming administration may soon impose a mandate that the nation get 10 or 15 percent of its electricity from renewable sources within a few years.

Yet the experience of states that have adopted similar goals suggests that passing that requirement could be a lot easier than achieving it. The record so far is decidedly mixed: some states appear to be on track to meet energy targets, but others have fallen behind on the aggressive goals they set several years ago.

The state goals have contributed to rapid growth of wind turbines and solar power stations in some areas, notably the West, but that growth has come on a minuscule base. Nationwide, the hard numbers provide a sobering counterpoint to the green-energy enthusiasm sweeping Washington.

Al Gore is running advertisements claiming the nation could switch entirely to renewable power within a decade. But most experts do not see how. Even with the fast growth of recent years, less than 3 percent of the nation’s electricity is coming from renewable sources, excepting dams.

“I think we are really overselling how quick, how easy and how complete the transition can be,” said George Sterzinger, executive director of the Renewable Energy Policy Project, a Washington advocacy group.

More than half the states have adopted formal green-energy goals. In many states the policies, known as renewable portfolio standards, are too new to be evaluated. But so far the number of successes and failures is “sort of a 50-50 kind of affair,” said Ryan Wiser, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and co-author of a recent report on the targets.

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