WGA Clean Energy Proposal could save our region billions<br>
Governor Napolitano and other western governors attending the annual Western Governors Association (WGA) meeting in Santa Fe on June 22, unanimously adopted a clean energy resolution to move the West towards a clean, secure and diversified energy system.
In the bi-partisan agreement, the WGA endorsed ambitious and explicit energy goals for the West: the production of 30,000 megawatts of clean energy by 2015 (the equivalent of 60 conventional power plants) and a 20 percent reduction in demand through efficiency gains by 2020.
The initiative creates a more balanced approach to the current federal policy of continued unbridled exploitation of traditional energy sources, a policy that emphasizes energy exploration in some of the last remaining wild places in the West while discounting negative effects on native plants and animals, as well as the natural landscapes that make the region so special.
According to a presentation given at the WGA meeting, it is possible to have safe and reliable electricity that does not degrade the environment or come with a high price tag.
A Balanced Energy Plan for the Interior West, produced by Western Resource Advocates, a Colorado-based group compared a “business as usual” scenario with a plan that is similar to the clean energy resolution adopted by the governors. Under the Balanced Energy Plan, 20 percent of the region’s electricity would come from renewable technologies and there would be a significant but doable investment in energy efficiency.
The good news is that it would save the region at least $2 billion annually and protect against risks such as rising gas prices and future potential greenhouse gas regulations. It would also improve the environment by reducing air pollution by 30 percent, and reducing carbon dioxide, a major global warming gas, by 40 percent. Billions of gallons of water would also be saved.
The leadership of the governors is a powerful signal to state energy offices, utility commissions, and business leaders that developing clean energy and using energy more efficiently is where our energy future lies.
Gov. Janet Napolitano demonstrated strong support for the WGA resolution and should be congratulated for her leadership on an issue that is critically important to Arizona’s future.
Arizona has the opportunity right now to create new policy that will help implement the WGA resolution. The Arizona Corporation Commission, which sets policy for regulate utilities, is concluding a series of workshops on changing the state’s Environmental Portfolio Standard. While a vote by Commissioners is still months away, Chairman Marc Spitzer and the majority of Commission members have expressed support for expanding the requirement that utilities produce more electricity from renewable energy and do more to increase the energy efficiency of our homes, businesses and industry. This process provides a great opportunity for Arizona residents to support clean energy and energy efficiency programs.
The efforts of the WGA and the Arizona Corporation Commission are examples of the kind of leadership we need to move towards an energy system that is less susceptible to price volatility, disruption from events taking place overseas, less vulnerable to terrorism, less environmentally damaging, an cost saving. However, we also need to recognize that it is a long way from policy to performance, and visionary efforts such as these need public support to reach their full potential. The Grand Canyon Trust and the Interwest Energy Alliance call on state, tribal, and local officials, businesses, and citizens to work together to make the Western governors’ bold vision a reality.
(Amanda Ormond represents the Interwest Energy Alliance. The Alliance is a wind industry and advocacy organization trade association, which supports state-level renewable energy and energy efficiency public policy. Rick Moore is Associate Director of the Grand Canyon Trust, which works to protect the clean air, vast open spaces, and flowing rivers of the Grand Canyon and Colorado Plateau.)
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