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January 13, 2010

More Power to Renewable Energy!

Now a bit of good news via the Wonk Room:
In 2004, Colorado became the first state to pass a renewable energy standard (RES) by popular vote, a measure requiring large utilities to produce 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2015.

Three years later, after it became clear the RES goal of 10 percent was going to be achieved nearly eight years ahead of schedule, the state legislature doubled down with a new 20 percent mandate by 2020.

Now it looks like Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility, will be able to meet the 20 percent five years ahead of schedule. So Gov. Bill Ritter (D) and legislative leaders are uping the ante once again, making a 30 percent RES by 2020 a priority for the legislative session that begins today.

The point is that these targets often prove much easier to achieve than corporations like to admit. We have a corporate community that by and large provides kneejerk resistance to regulation so it's good to be reminded (again) that their predictions of doom/failure are usually unfounded and frequently just plain wrong.

There is no doubt in my mind that the same will prove true in the case of cap and trade. Industry, as it has countless times in the past, will discover how easy it is to function, even thrive, in a world where carbon comes with a price tag. But Colorado's experience also suggests that, in the event a climate bill fails this year or, as the WSJ speculates, is scrapped, Congress should indeed go ahead and enact an ambitious renewable energy standard -- something even cap-and-trade hating folks like Sen. Blanche Lincoln and American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman are on record supporting. In the end, success with renewables might make coming back and enacting cap-and-trade that much easier.

Flickr photo: LordFerguson

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