November 26, 2012

Foes attack energy mandates

Their Electricity Freedom Act would repeal states' renewable power standards.

By JULIET EILPERIN The Washington Post

(Continued from page 1)

"It is not that ALEC is opposed to renewable energy in any way," Wynn said. "But we are opposed to government intervention mandating certain energy sources over others."

But renewable energy officials -- including ones from the Solar Energy Industries Association and the American Wind Energy Association, both ALEC members -- questioned the new policy. Setting renewable targets is a popular way to diversify a state's energy mix and lock in long-term prices, they said, while alternative energy costs continue to decline.

"ALEC is going to wake up and realize that the Heartland Institute, which is funded by special interests, is pushing them in a direction that's making them irrelevant to, or at best out of touch with, the American public," said SEIA President Rhone Resch. "And they can't afford to do that."

As part of its effort to roll back renewable standards, ALEC is citing economic analyses of state policies co-published by Suffolk University's Beacon Hill Institute and the State Policy Network. Both groups have received donations from foundations funded by the Koch brothers, who support libertarian causes.

The analyses -- which examine current or proposed standards in such states as Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina and Oregon -- assume that the Energy Information Administration's projected renewable energy price estimates are too low, and that cost-containment measures embedded in state policies will fail. As a result, the reports conclude Kansas' requirement to obtain 20 percent of its electricity will cost consumers $644 million over the next eight years.

LePage and the conservative advocacy group Maine Heritage Policy Center have cited the Beacon Hill Institute study as evidence that Maine's renewable energy standards will increase energy costs by $145 million by 2017.

It's unclear whether this drive to repeal state renewable standards will succeed: Similar efforts in the past two years have failed in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon and Washington.

"Renewable standards passed over the last decade have been supported on a bipartisan basis, and that was before the dramatic growth in manufacturing and construction jobs the industry created," said Rob Gramlich, the American Wind Energy Association's senior vice president for public policy. "Attacks on state renewable energy policies in 2012 failed consistently and we are confident they will again in 2013."

Wynn said that while it may be hard to make headway next year, he was optimistic his side could start to dismantle some state requirements in 2014.

"These discussions are just starting to ramp up, and the impacts of these mandates are just starting to be seen in these states," he said.

It's possible that a Maine lawmaker might submit a bill similar to ALEC's model legislation. However, now that the House and Senate are back under Democratic control, it's unlikely that such a law could get enough votes to pass.

It might be more likely that Maine's law changes in a different way. Late last year, a coalition called Maine Citizens for Clean Energy began gathering signatures to force a citizens' initiative that would ask Mainers to support or reject an additional expansion of the renewable energy standards law. The group failed to gather enough signatures and, in January, said it would likely try for a ballot initiative in 2013.

LePage was critical of that effort, calling it a "job killer."

Press Herald Staff Writer Eric Russell contributed to this story.

This story was updated at 11:33 p.m. Nov. 25 to correct the amount of money the Heartland Institute received from Exxon Mobil and foundations affiliated with Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch.

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