Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Hundreds of Clean Energy Bills Have Been Introduced in States Nationwide This Year

State-by-state look at proposals dealing with renewable energy reveals bipartisan collaboration for cleaner electricity, as Republican backlash in Washington grows.

Under a proposal introduced in the California legislature, the state's electricity would come entirely from renewable sources, like this Oakland wind farm, by 2045. (Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Lawmakers in state legislatures across the nation have proposed hundreds of bills this year relating to clean energy.  While many propose to grow alternative energy resources, others work to impede them, creating a chaotic map of countervailing efforts.

State politicians have introduced measures to dramatically expand renewable electric power in nearly a dozen states in the first three months of 2017, some as ambitious as aiming to run entirely on renewables within a few decades; some would launch smaller-scale community solar ventures, like a pilot in Virginia; others would add tax breaks for solar users in South Carolina and Florida.

But other state legislatures are resisting the advance of clean power as it begins to transform the energy landscape.  Less a new assault inspired by the Republican-led backlash against green energy under way in Washington, D.C., it's the continuation of campaigns by conservative groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, Americans for Prosperity and the Heartland Institute with ties to the fossil fuel billionaires, the Koch brothers.  Members of traditional energy companies, including utilities and fossil fuel companies, have also supported some attacks.

There are proposals to end the popular solar financial arrangement known as net metering in Indiana, Missouri and elsewhere.  There are moves afoot to roll back statewide clean energy targets in North Carolina, New Hampshire and Ohio.  There was even a bill to effectively outlaw utility-scale wind and solar in Wyoming, and a defiant measure seeking a two-year moratorium on new wind projects in North Dakota.

But many clean energy policy experts and advocates told InsideClimate News that despite the challenges, they remain encouraged by the conversations playing out at the state level.  That's because they are seeing examples of bipartisan collaboration for clean energy and polls showing widespread support for cutting emissions from the electric grid.  And there is widespread business support for a cleaner energy marketplace and for the Paris climate agreement generally.

"I would say that bills like the ones in Wyoming and North Dakota that are trying to fight wind are more the outlier," said J.R. Tolbert, vice president of state policy at the research and lobbying group Advanced Energy Economy.  "The policy debate [in states] is actually a healthy debate that's going on across the country right now."

The tumult at the state level will help resolve the direction the nation takes at a time when the world's progress toward meeting long-term climate goals appears to be in jeopardy.

The direction states are taking, however, is not always driven by which party is in power.  Other factors like local geography, resources, politics, legal codes and competing public interests complicate the picture.

Based on conversations with more than a dozen clean energy analysts and supporters, InsideClimate News has identified the top five emerging trends related to state legislation on clean energy to watch this year:

Read more at Hundreds of Clean Energy Bills Have Been Introduced in States Nationwide This Year

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