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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Strong State Policies Mean Support Renewable Energy: Pass Those PUC Rules!

The PUC may have just gotten a some slam-dunk help from the feds to promote its Small Renewable Energy Initiative. The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory just issuedits 2009 State of the States report. Among the key findings: states that have passed renewable energy portfolio standards and net-metering policies have generally seen more progress in developing renewable energy.

Even though South Dakota is among the handful of laggards on such policies, 50% of South Dakota's electrical production comes from renewable sources (see Table 2.1 in the PDF report). 47.5% comes from the dams the feds built for us on the Missouri. (But remember, we consume more juice than we produce, and we import lots of smoky coal power from Wyoming and North Dakota.)

And even without strong state policies, we lead the nation in growth of non-hyrdo renewable electricity generation, a whopping 17,000% from 2001 to 2007 (see Table 2.4). But huge growth numbers are easy to achieve when you start from almost zilch: wind generation in 2007 still provided just 2.4% of our total electricity production (Table 2.17). 5.5% of Iowa's electrical production came from wind; in Minnesota, that figure was 4.8%. And we're still only 19th in the nation for total wind generating capacity; the top four states are Texas, Iowa (15 times our capacity), California, and Minnesota (9 times our capacity). Declining output from the dams meant South Dakota saw an overall decrease in renewable enrgy output of over 10% from 2001 to 2007; over the same period, 35 states, including all of our neighbors except Nebraska, saw growth in their renewable electricity production (Table 7.5).

Compared to Minnesota and Iowa, South Dakota is woefully behind on passing policies that support renewable energy development (see Table 3.1). NREL finds that, among other things, net metering policies and even green power mandates (that's more than what the PUC is asking for) produce faster renewable enrgy adoption. According to the NREL report, we could boost our clean energy percentages faster and catch up with those darned Minnesotans and Iowegians if we got with the program and passed rules like the PUC's proposals for small renewable generation.

Read the report yourself—I'm sure our friends Dusty, Steve, and Gary will! It's chock full of tables (101!) for your number-crunching enjoyment.

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