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It's not always what you say...

...but how you say it?

In this morning's New York Times, this article http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/03/science/earth/03climate.html?ref=science calls global warming unequivocal.  There's really nothing new here for those of us who have been following the GW "debate" and *gasp* already understood that the evidence is more than compelling, but the question is whether use of more forceful language will impact the naysayers. 

The article quotes Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program:  “Feb. 2 will be remembered as the date when uncertainty was removed as to whether humans had anything to do with climate change on this planet,” he went on. “The evidence is on the table.”

Others out there have used the language of certainty to describe the impact of global warming.  So will this attempt at removing uncertainty as a issue drive policy makers into action?  Has the issue finally been framed in such a way to force real changes?  My favorite part of the article:

The Bush administration, which until recently avoided directly accepting that humans were warming the planet in potentially harmful ways, embraced the findings, which had been approved by representatives from the United States and 112 other countries on Thursday night.

Administration officials asserted Friday that the United States had played a leading role in studying and combating climate change, in part by an investment of an average of almost $5 billion a year for the past six years in research and tax incentives for new technologies.

At the same time, Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman rejected the idea of unilateral limits on emissions. “We are a small contributor to the overall, when you look at the rest of the world, so it’s really got to be a global solution,” he said.

The United States, with about 5 percent of the world’s population, contributes about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, more than any other country.

Democratic lawmakers quickly fired off a round of news releases using the report to bolster a fresh flock of proposed bills aimed at cutting emissions of greenhouse gases. Senator James M. Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who has called the idea of dangerous human-driven warming a hoax, issued a news release headed “Corruption of Science” that rejected the report as “a political document.”

Well, maybe it doesn't matter what or how it's said, some will never listen.  Hopefully this new report will have some impact on those policy makers concerned about uncertainty, and strengthen some climate change initiatives.

RES Analysis

The potential new RES is now available online. Many are calling it the most aggressive Renewable Energy Standard in the country, but such absolute comparisons are difficult (and ours is not law yet, it has to go through the House and conference committee). California has an RES of 20% by 2010 and a goal of 33% by 2020.

Regardless, this is certainly a massive step foward thanks to the hard work of many people. Senator Anderson has pushed for an RES for many years and deserves much of the credit. Governor Pawlenty's new energy package certainly also had a hand in making it so strong.

Let's dive right into it.

The renewable energy standard says that utilities must create a certain percentage of the electricity they sell from eligible (renewable) technologies by a certain year. Xcel has once again been singled out for more aggressive responsibilities but in a different way than as under our current Renewable Energy Objective. The objective has been increased to 7% by 2010 rather than an objective of 5% by 2010 as under current law.

After 2010, there are several standards (this is all utilities aside from Xcel). 12% by 2012. 17% by 2016. 20% by 2020. 25% by 2025.

Now we get to Xcel. Xcel continues to have a standard rather than an objective. However, its many wind project requirements under the Prairie Island deals (made in exchange for increasing temporary nuclear storage at the site) will now count toward its requirement. Currently, those projects do not count toward Xcel's standard. Counting them is now justified due to Xcel's greatly increased obligations.

For Xcel: 15% by 2010, 18% by 2012, 25% by 2016, and 30% by 2020! Given that Xcel sells some 50% of all power sold in Minnesota, this standard is a tremendous achievement.

Xcel is mandated to use wind for 25% of its generation in 2020. This sort of technological lock-in can be dangerous to write into statute though as the ultimate goal is not to produce wind so much as it is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, wind is the most economical way to do that and this requirement will make sense so long as that remains true. If other eligible technologies have a massive technological or economical leap, this language will have to be modified or Xcel will waste its ratepayer's money.

As everyone expected, eligible hydro has a new ceiling of 100MW. Larger hydroelectric facilities will not count toward the renewable requirement. They have dropped the language that would have made old hydro ineligible. Greenpricing has also been axed so I guess I'll have a couple extra dollars a month.

The offramp language is more robust but also gives the PUC less decision-making power. Previously, the language said the PUC "may" modify or delay the standard if certain conditions are met but it now reads that the PUC "shall" modify or delay the standard.

Nonetheless, the PUC has been given a strong set of criteria by which to judge if a utlity merits a delay or modification (look halfway down the post). The Committee finishes the compliance section with a warning to the PUC and a requirement that a utility must file a plan to meet the standard if it requests a delay.

When considering whether to delay or modify implementation of a standard obligation, the commission must give due consideration to a preference for electric generation through use of eligible energy technology and to the achievement of the standards set by this section.

The bill requires the PUC to develop the credit trading program (well on the way - MRETS) and credits cannot be treated differently based upon the state in which they were generated. All utilities must work with this system.

Of course, we still want to encourage energy development in Minnesota:

The commission shall take all reasonable actions within its statutory authority to ensure this section is implemented to maximize benefits to Minnesota citizens, balancing factors such as local ownership of or participation in energy production, development and ownership of eligible energy technology facilities by independent power producers, Minnesota utility ownership of eligible energy technology facilities, the costs of energy generation to satisfy the renewable standard, and the reliability of electric service to Minnesotans.

On to the House!

MPR coverage. Pioneer Press coverage. My RES chain of posts begin here.

Energy Committee OKs RES

Minnesota is one step closer to an official Renewable Energy Standard today after the Senate Energy Committee moved S.F. 4 out of committee and onto the Senate floor (at time of publishing, bill was not yet updated in the Senate system). This post follows my coverage of the RES/REO discussions.

The bill is different than anticipated - Loon Commons has a brief comment about it.

It looks like Xcel will continue to be held to a different reqirement - 30% of all power by 2025 and other utilities will have a standard of 25% by 2025.

You can watch the 36 minute committee hearing online via the klunky Senate system. Look for the row for Thursday, 1 Feb, 2007.

Chair Prettner Solon noted that the stakeholder group came to a strong agreement.

What came out of this, with the stakeholders that were involved, with the exception of one municipal utility who is not able to support this, have agreed on the language and have agreed that they will not offer amendments; they will not lobby against it; and that they will advocate for this position in the other body also.

I'm hoping that we have a good solid bill that we can move foward. And I thank you all.

Judging from the post at Loon Commons, I'm curious if they left some environmental groups behind also. Given the sudden change in the targets and dates, I would not be surprised if some environmental orgs were disappointed.

There was an interesting situation in the committee where Senator Vandeveer (first term Republican from District 42) attempted to offer an amendment that would increase the standard by 1% in 2017 (or 2018, I forget). He offered little justification for an amendment which clearly was unneeded and against the spirit of the entire process that far.

In the end, Senator Anderson and Senator Dibble prevailed upon him to withdraw the amendment and he complied. I figured out why they have these committee meetings during the day - I think they are trying to rival drama on TV.

Nonetheless, we appear to be heading to a better outcome than we hoped 8 months ago. I will link to the bill as soon as it is available and provide more details.

Climate Change A/V Achive

If you missed the historic 8-way Committee meeting on global climate change, you can view it online via the House archive. They are listed chronologically, so scroll down to 30 January and look for "Informational presentation on global warming."

Additionally, you can listen to a call-in show from Minnesota Public Radio on global warming.

How Many Legislators Does It Take to Change a Lightbulb (Act)?

California may ban conventional lightbulbs by 2012! In an interesting development, California Assemblyman Lloyd Levine wishes to purge the state of the traditional incandescent bulbs and replace them with the more efficient fluorescents.  While it is admirable that California is, again, pushing the country to be greener, this step poses some potential problems.  

1)  The light given off by fluorescents is definitely different than the incandescents everyone is used to.  Will people accept this change easily?  Will fluorescents work in all applications?  They don't dim like incandescents do, which makes me wonder if there are other applications in which they are inferior.  What about all the lightbulbs in the movie industry?  
2)  How do you monitor this??  "Welcome to my home, Mr. Incandescent Inspector!  Would you like to see my bathroom?"  Somehow I think not.  Even if they just ban the sale of incandescents within the state, I could see black markets opening up for traditional bulbs, or even people driving to Nevada, Arizona, or Oregon to buy them just as Minnesotans would go to Wisconsin to buy fireworks before "The Body" made them legal.  
3) Fluorescents are more expensive than incandescents, and though they present significant energy cost savings throughout the lifetime of the bulb, many people cannot afford the upfront cost (or understand the implications of the bulb).  Would a sharp increase in demand for the bulbs raise the cost significantly?  Economics says yes... Would the state subsidize the purchase for poorer Californians?  
Not sure that this idea would successfully accomplish what Assemblyman Levine wishes it to, but it is an interesting idea.

Bush acts on energy efficiency and renewable energy

The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) office of the US Department of Energy is reporting today that President Bush signed Executive Order 13423 calling for increased energy efficiency in Federal Government operations and increased usage of energy from renewable sources.

Following are summaries of the directives in the order:

  • Agencies must reduce their energy intensity 3% per year or by 30% by 2015 relative to their 2003 baseline.
  • That at least half of mandated renewable energy use come from newer facilities. Agencies are also encouraged to work to have renewable energy sources constructed on agency property.
  • Agencies must reduce their water usage intensity by 2% annually or by 16% by 2015 relative to their 2003 baseline.
  • Requires increased sustainability in goods purchased and used by agencies. This includes requiring paper have at least 20% recycled content, use of bio-based products, and energy efficiency products.
  • Agencies to improve waste management including increasing recycling, reducing use and disposal of toxic materials, and improved waste handling.
  • Ensure that new buildings comply with the Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings. 15% of all Federal buildings are to meet these guidelines by 2015.
  • The fleets reduce petroleum product usage by 2% annually and increase portion of fuel used that is non-petroleum-based (yes, it says non-petroleum instead of renewable) by 10% per year.
  • Increased use of Energy Star products.

Many of the provisions listed above are mandated by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Track Minnesota Environmental Legislation

Want to stay up to date on energy and environmental legislation moving through the Minnesota Legislature this session? The Minnesota Environmental Partnership tracks all environmental legislation that is in the current Minnesota Legislature. The bill tracker is updated regularly and includes status information on bills covering a wide range of environmental topics, including energy issues. Click here to access the bill tracker.

RES Draft Bill

I have been meaning to post about last week's RES discussions in the Senate Energy Committee. My home internet has been broken for a week and Comcast has proven uninterested in fixing the problem. At any rate, I will now continue my continuing coverage of renewable energy legislation in the Minnesota Senate.

The time is ripe and the Committee appears poised to vote on the resolution on Thursday, Feb 1. These notes come from the Committee meeting on Thursday, Jan 25 (Real media video, Windos Media Video, and mp3 audio).

The Senate Committee will be voting on (and approving) S.F. 4. Behind the scenes, the committee has convened stakeholder meetings to work out a compromise bill that the committee will then pass. I have a draft from last week's agreement but it has undoubtedly been refined since. I think we have a basic idea of what the committee will pass though.

If all goes to plan, the bill will be S.F. 4, but don't bother reading the text of that bill now because the committee will adopt a "delete all" amendment that rewrites the entire bill with language selected to assure passage and broad agreement.

It will be a 25% standard, requiring all utilities in Minnesota to generate 25% of the electricity they sell in the year 2020 from renewable resources.

At this point, it still looks like they will remove the biomass set asides although there are some people that are still fighting such action. Under the current REO, utilities must use biomass for part of their generation. This has proved difficult and costly without enough of a benefit to justify keeping it. It is also hobbled by the way it is written - though intended to be .5% of all energy sold, it actually requires utilities to generate .5% of 10% of their sales. Whoops. No Senator has yet appeared willing to keep this biomass language.

The standard targets are 11% by 2013, 15% by 2015, and 25% by 2020. Utilities may bank excess renewable generation in one year to use for future years.

The draft I have still disallows old hydro (put into service before 1975) - which will apparently take 200MW of Xcel hydro from being allowed to being disallowed. This provision is justified by supporters because the point of the RES is to create new, carbon-neutral generation sources rather than reward old generation facilities.

There is an interested provision on technologies based upon fuel combustion that says it can only count toward the standard if it was constructed with new source performance standards or uses best available control technology for that type of facility. This limits co-generation units to those which are least polluting.

The RES bill will offer substantially more offramp provisions than the Senator Anderson's original proposal. There is a section that gives the PUC power to decide if it needs to modify or delay a standard if it is in the public interest to do so (for reasons of reliability, technical concerns, or major rate impact) if there are significant reasons to do so.

It then includes language which says "the commission shall modify or delay" obligations if there are issues beyond the utilities' control. Note that the PUC has not choice in this matter, it must grant a delay or modification if this situation arises. The reasons are

  1. delays in acquiring sites or routes or due to rejection of necessary siting or other permitting approvals;
  2. delays, cancellations, or nondelivery of necessary equipment for construction or commercial operation of an eligible energy facility; or
  3. transmission constraints preventing delivery of service.

I am guessing that these clear offramps were needed to ensure broad approval of the ambitious 25% by 2020 standard. While some are worried about the increased offramps, I really don't think they matter in the long run. Whaaaa? Well...

The point of the RES is to force utilities to invest in carbon-neutral electricity generation. Just by passing this legislation, the state sends a message to the market that Minnesota is committed to the wind market. Utilities will know what is expected of them. If they are not meeting their obligations in 5-7 years, when the consensus will be even stronger that carbon emissions are a problem, they will incur the wrath of the legislature and public.

The compliance penalty will have a ceiling of the cost of complying with the standard. I thought this was odd, but commenter Jesse reminded me that this penalty will levied against the company whereas the cost of complying with the standard can be recovered from ratepayers. Additionally, the PUC can first order the utility to construct facilities or buy credits. Ideally, the penalties will never be required anyway.

The bill then deals with transmission, saying that utilites must work with MISO to develop a plan to ensure the grid can handle the coming load from so much wind generation.

The final provision deleted green pricing. This bothers me becuase I like having the option of forcing utilities to deliver 100% green power to customers willing to pay extra. But this is most likely a worthwhile tradeoff given the strong standard.

Once the committee sends this bill out of committee, we'll see what happens in the full Senate. I hope to follow the House deliberations on their RES closely as well in order to see how closely the two agree.

Again, this discussion is based on a draft bill. I look forward to the final wrap-up after the vote on Thursday.

The new RES will require all electric utilities to participate in the PUC approved credit tracking system (MRETS). This is an important step for an effective tracking program.

The committee will next be dealing with C-BED (Community-Based Economic Development) issues and the CIPs (Conservation Improvement Programs).

Oil Pipelines

Just how do they keep those oil pipelines running? Wired covered pigs (the robots that continuously inspect pipelines). They have a graphic and brief explanations of the technologies involved to prevent spills or disruptions.

That issue also features a profile of the first fuel-cell motorcycle which does 50mph and leaves no emissions.

Welcome Blotter Readers

Just noticed that Energista is the Blotter's Minnesota Blog of the Day. The Blotter is the City Pages Staff Blog. Welcome to Energista, Blotter readers!

 

Bush Clueless on Energy

The Star Tribune has an excellent editorial on Bush's energy proposals from his State of the Union address. In short, they will likely encourage continued growth in greenhouse gas emissions and do little to encourage biofuels.

Finally, as he did last year, the president emphasized the need for the development and expansion of alternative fuels. The prospect of expanding corn ethanol production and the development of other biofuels is not only good for energy self-reliance, it's also good for the economies of states like Minnesota, where corn, prairie grasses and other sources of fuel can be grown. Here the president did propose a mandate: the production of 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels by 2017. But whole-plant or cellulosic ethanol, which would have fewer environmental impacts than corn ethanol, isn't ready for prime time, and Bush has never supported the levels of research necessary to create a working industry.

As is usual for politicians at the national level, Bush used misleading language which may make the uninformed observer think he is encouraging smarter energy policy when he is actually doing the opposite. Indeed, his ideas aren't just bad for energy, they are bad for U.S. companies as well.

Bush advocates changing the fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles, but the way in which he wants to change them makes more sense for the sagging auto industry than as a means of reaching his purported goal: getting more miles per gallon of fuel.

A major reason for poor U.S. sales remains the wretched fuel economy of U.S. car companies. They have pushed the most profitable cars - SUVs - without a care for environmental consequences and without increasing the competitiveness of their smaller cars. CAFE is smarter than the execs - it is not often you hear government bureaucrats making better decisions than the market, but we need to go that route unless we really want the market to punish U.S. automakers with continued declining sales.

Rising to the Challenge: Youth Climate mobilization

This week January 29th-Feb 2nd is the national week of youth climate action: Rising to the Challenge, with events hosted at 575 campuses nation-wide. Students in Minnesota will host Campus Wars, a month long competition to save energy and speak out for climate change action.

I invite you to check out the wider initiative at http://itsgettinghotinhere.org/category/week-of-action/

Hosted by It's Getting Hot in Here, the global youth climate movement blog.

In case you want to check out the campuses involved, you can do so at: http://www.climatechallenge.org/woa

I coordinate many of the efforts of the Minnesota schools at campus sustainability, advocacy, and developing ambitious, concrete solutions to global warming.

Midwest youth in this movement will gather together for the Youth Climate Action Conference on March 2-4 in Madison Wisconsin - the second annual gathering our youth energy and climate leaders.

Renting Solar Panels

There is a lot of internet hype out CitizenRE, a multi-level marketing company that intends to rent solar panels to homeowners for the same price of electricity you pay to your electric company. Sounds great, right? Low or no money down and a solar system on every roof. Maybe too good…

Most interested people have either environmental intentions, economic motivations, or both. Solar electricity is your LAST priority for the environment and your bottom line. Solar is sexy, cool, and holds great promise, BUT if you weighed the costs and benefits, for the average homeowner, there are many things they should be otherwise doing - buying a more efficient car, putting in CFL lightbulbs, becoming a vegetarian, etc.

There’s always a balance between getting in on a “deal” and “too good to be true.” A deal on a car is one thing. Everyone buys a car, understands what a car does, how they’re made, where they come from, and has relatively good information about the transaction. How many people understand solar panels, how they work, are made, etc?

There is very little concrete information about this company other than “rah rah” and hype. They are recruiting salespeople through newspapers, Craigslist, and blogs. There is very little critical analysis, but here are two blogs that aren’t just sliced-bread:

EE/RE Investing (somewhat supportive of CitizenRE)

Renewable Energy Now (skeptical of CitizenRE)

I am a skeptic of CitizenRE in particular (though the business model will certainly emerge in the future). Here are the big questions:

1. Where is this 500 MW plant being built and is it under construction now? Where are they getting scarce raw silicon supplies? Why hasn’t anyone in the industry heard of this plant? Where is the money coming from?

2. Where are they developing an installer network? Will they be NABCEP certified? Why would existing dealers with their own businesses want to join this network?

3. They claim to be able to install in any state with net metering and a retail price over 7 cents/kWh. As such, they are willing to accept wildly variable profit rates - different electric companies and states have very different economic conditions. Is this realistic? Are they really doing business in every state with net metering?

4. Two companies in the US offer this same “rental” model on a commercial level (SunEdison, MMA Renewable Ventures) but only at a scale of at least 500 kilowatts or larger, i.e. over 200 times bigger than a home. This model is still emerging and developing and other large companies are considering getting into it on large installation. Why would CitizenRE have struck upon something that these companies haven’t at a size 1/200 of what is typically economical?

5. Why is there such a lack of information? Wouldn’t transparency help them answer these kinds of questions to the industry? Why has no one in the industry heard of them? Why aren’t they at solar conferences presenting their information? Why the hype and unrealistic dates and targets? (Proprietary jargon doesn’t cut it - the construction of a manufacturing plant can’t really be hidden.)

More to come as I put out feelers to some industry contacts…

Climate Change

We have a lot of local climate change events in the immediate future, so I wanted to note them. First of all, many people have been talking about Bush using the term "global climate change" in his State of the Union address this week. Unsurprisingly, Bush's energy proposals are imaginative only in the sense that they are deceitful.

It is in our vital interest to diversify America's energy supply -- and the way forward is through technology. We must continue changing the way America generates electric power -- by even greater use of clean coal technology ... solar and wind energy ... and clean, safe nuclear power.

Let's parse this. In the first sentence, he says we must "diversify America's energy supply." One might expect this to mean that we should get our energy from more sources or organize those sources so that rely upon each in a roughly proportional amount. Next sentence. We need to use more coal. We rely upon coal for electricity to a major degree. Some 50% of electricity in the U.S. is generated from coal. If we were to diversify our energy supply, we would focus on things like wind and solar and perhaps even nuclear, although if we are to achieve a balance, we need to focus on wind and solar.

This is where the logic of "energy independence" clashes with that of mitigating global climate change. If we are to focus on energy security, we should focus on coal because we have lots of it domestically. However, coal is the worst fossil fuels in terms of increasingly greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, if we are to cut greenhouse gases, we must use less coal (unless carbon sequestration technology and policy clears its hurdles and can compete in the market like wind power).

I attended a lecture by the University of Minnesota's Dr. Tilman on biofuels and energy issues. His research is promising, but requires more research and years of experiments. This irritated the gentleman sitting in front of me who whispered that we need solutions now. While he is right in that we need to start implementing smart policies now (which many states are now doing, Minnesota included), I wondered if he actually understands the inertia in the system.

Inertia is not complicated. It is the tendency of objects in motion to stay in motion and for those at rest to stay at rest. The climate has massive inertia. We have spent hundreds of years putting too many greenhouse gases into the environment. As a result, we are committed to significant warning regardless of what we do today. The question is how we can limit it.

Those who think we still have time to prevent it are wrong. If we do not make this clear, we will face considerable pain in 5 years when the average person in the U.S. wonders why lifestyle changes are necessary if the climate is continuing to warm. While we need to start acting now, continuing to research makes a lot of sense and should be funded heavily by the government as well as private enterprises.

Many of these issues are covered in a good energy roundtable discussion led by WAMU's Diane Rehm. You can download the podcast here but it appears to cut off near the end.

At any rate, there are a number of events over the next couple of days that deal with climate change.

Friday, all day. Risk and Response Conference at the Humphrey Institute

Friday night, Minnesota Public Radio is doing some sort of a public forum on climate change. Tickets are sold out, but you can listen online - they will be streaming it from MPR.org starting at 7:00. It will also be replayed on Tuesday's Midmorning show at 9:00AM.

Tuesday, 4:00PM - Several committees from the Minnesota Legislature are having a joint session on climate change. They will meet in the House Chamber. Committees involved will be: Environment & Natural Resources, Environment & Natural Resources Finance, Energy Finance & Policy and Transportation Finance.

On the agenda is Will Steger, Dr. David Tilman, Dr. Lee Frelich, Dr. Lucinda Johnson, Archbishop Harry Flynn and Bishop Craig Johnson.

The public will be able to view the event in rooms 217 and 316 of the State Capitol, where it will be projected on the walls, and on TVs in 123 State Capitol, the Capitol Cafeteria and 5 State Office Building.

RES/REO Testimoney

This story continues the string of posts following the Senate Energy Committee and its deliberations about strengthening the current Renewable Energy Objective (that utilities supply 10% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2015) or replacing it with a Renewable Energy Standard (stronger language to require compliance).

Tuesday, 23 Jan saw more testimony and no deliberations (Real Media video or Windows Media video). Committee counsel John Fuller reported on progress by the stakeholder group that is trying to reach compromises. He noted that nearly everyone agrees that they should eliminate the biomass set-aside in order to fully allow the market to choose which renewable energies are best suited to supply electricity. Similarly, everyone seems okay with changing the upper hydro limit from 60WM to 100MW. Qualifying "small" hydro will likely become bigger.

He defended the idea of giving the PUC authority to impose a penalty that would equal the cost of compliance. He argued that this would encourage compliance, but I think that is a poor argument. A penalty larger than cost of compliance strikes me as a penalty. Ideally, it would never have to be assessed, but it clearly sends a stronger message to utilities - especially when the language in Senator Tomassoni's bill (the one the Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association - MMUA - is pushing) says the penalty can be up to that amount. This means the penalty could also be below it.

He also added that the PUC's requirements and responsibilities should be clear and uncomplicated. This will reduce confusion and allow for more accurate planning by the utilities.

Several people (mostly from industry, utilities, and the Chamber of Commerce) testified against a standard, saying an objective is preferable to a standard due to its flexibility. There has been a lot of discussion about the "offramp" provisions of the standard and whether it is sufficiently flexible to prevent catastrophe in the face of unintended consequences in a time of rising steel prices, tight transmission planning, changing production tax credit policy, and the years it takes to order turbines in a time of high demand.

Bill Grant (head of Izaak Walton League of America) spoke on behalf of Clean Energy Minnesota. He gave a strong presentation in defense of a 25% by 2020 standard. A reason for creating a standard is to draw the wind industry into Minnesota. He argued that a standard offers a much stronger signal to the market than an objective.

As he spoke, I couldn't help but think of players in the wind market and their motivations. If choosing where to build factories and create jobs, why would you pick Minnesota, with its flexible objective when you have more than 20 states with full standards? Of course, Minnesota's objective will likely site more turbines and projects than other states that have standards (many of which are far less ambitious than Governor Pawlenty's proposal), but I have to believe those executives want to tie themselves into a location that requires wind in the strongest possible language.

One of Grant's strongest arguments - and one that has not been discussed in front of the committee to my knowledge - is that a high standard gives the utilities strong incentive to lower demand. If they have a 25% requirement of power sold, they will have to build fewer turbines if they encourage their consumers to conserve. Less power sold overall means fewer new generation facilities. If utilities were to actually work to lower demand, it would make the renewable sources we build go further and actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions rather than merely keeping them steady (as one of our diligent contributors has noted several times). This also fits within Pawlenty's plan to reduce demand growth across the state.

He also noted ironically that many of the utilies had argued in previous years that 20% by 2020 was too ambitious and they could not do it. Now they are saying they can but anything beyond that is too much. A person from the utility later claimed their argument was more nuanced - that they just wanted to wait for the wind integration study to be completed. My recollection comes closer to Grant's, so I tried to locate some form of historical record from previous Senate Energy Committees and testimony. However, the Senate's web site does its citizens a disservice by offer to little information in too disorganized a format. If anyone else has any hard evidence of what has been said in previous years, please let us know.

My favorite moment came when Greg Oxley, from MMUA) encouraged the legislature to require the PUC to act more promptly on issues of transmission. Janet Gonzales from the PUC said these processes take time because they are complex and the PUC wants to do work that will hold up in court. If they were to rush it, it may end up costing more and require more time. At any rate, Oxley said something about how nothing ever gets done without a deadline. Senator Olseen then asked him about that comment. He noted that this was why he supports a standard - the utilities need a deadline to bring more renewables into the system. This is one of those moments that make attending committee meetings entertaining.

I have not heard any changes to Chair Prettner Solon's desire that the committee vote on the RES/REO bills by next Tuesday so I hope Thursday will actually feature discussion and parliamentary pranks rather than 2.5 hours of trying testimony that mostly repeats what we have heard.

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