States Take Up the Challenge of Energy Policy

Since the federal government has yet to renew tax incentives for renewable energy, the states have been stepping up their efforts to ensure continued growth for their green energy economies. Most recently, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell signed an energy bill that will dole out $650 million in loans, grants and incentives for renewable energy projects in the Keystone State.

Here’s a round up of three recently signed state-level energy bills and one veto:

Pennsylvania: The bulk of $650 million is slated to go into renewable energy projects in the form of loans and tax incentives. One provision stipulates $40 million be put into the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority, a sort of state run venture firm. The $40 million will be used on early stage startups and function as an incubator.

Massachusetts: Governor Deval Patrick signed the Green Communities Act last week which makes a number of reforms to make financing and developing clean energy in the Bay State easier. The bill included a big push to improve energy efficiency and mandates that utilities implement all energy efficiency improvements that cost less than power generation. The law also requires utilities to enter into 10 or 15-year contracts with renewable energy providers, making it easier for developers to plan long term. The bill made reforms to allow utilities to own solar panels on customers’ roofs and greenlights net-metering so residents can sell power back to the grid.

Florida: The sunshine state’s governor Charlie Crist signed HB 7135 at the end of June. Amid the ongoing biofuel debate, the bill sets a renewable fuel standard requiring all gasoline contain 10 percent ethanol by 2010. The bill also extended instate tax credits and created the Florida Energy and Climate Commission which will coordinate future energy and climate policy. Unfortunately, legislators did block one major element of Crist’s proposed energy plan, improved auto efficiency standards, due to heavy industry pressure.

Rhode Island: Governor Don Carcieri exercised his executive privilege and vetoed legislation that would have required utilities to purchase renewable energy on 10 year contracts, similar to Massachusetts’ newly minted law. The bill had proposed that National Grid, the state’s largest utility, would buy enough renewable energy to power 9 percent of Rhode Island by 2013 and the government would reimburse National Grid for 3 percent of power. Carcieri vetoed saying it would cost customers.

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