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Latest RPS developments in the states

News of renewables initiatives is coming in thick and fast from the states, with another Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) adopted last month, this time in New Jersey, the announcement of a major new fund in Minnesota to subsidise clean energy development, and a hiccup with legislation in Arizona.

New Jersey is opening its retail market to competition starting August 1, having passed legislation which includes a renewable energy requirement. This rises from the current level of 2.5% of the electricity supply portfolio to 6.5% in 2012, or over five million MWh in that year.

In Minnesota, utility Northern States Power just finalised a deal with sustainable energy advocates to put $500,000 a year into renewables development for each nuclear waste storage cask it builds at its Prairie Island nuclear plant. It has nine casks now and plans to add two a year until they reach a maximum of 17. By 2003 the annual payment to the renewables fund will be $8.5 million. The payments are to continue as long as the casks are still there-and could total $92 million by 2010.

The deal is part of the 1994 Prairie Island settlement, which created the state's wind and biomass mandate. The fund will be implemented by the utility with the input from environmental groups. The research and development will be "a way to kick-start the tires of the next generation of electric generation sources in the state," according to Bill Grant of the Izaak Walton League in an interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

In Arizona the going is not so smooth. A change in the line-up of the state utility commissioners has scuttled much of the deregulation plan worked out over the years, but it could still create a small opportunity for wind. With pro-renewables Commissioner Renz Jennings removed due to term limits, a solar-only RPS of 1% of sales by 2002, which could have produced 300 MW of PV by 2010, lost its majority support among the three elected commissioners and was repealed. Two of the commissioners, however, have suggested a revised RPS that is 70% solar electric, 20% solar water heating and 10% other, phasing in to account for 1% of all electricity sales by 2005.

In a further twist, the election of the new commissioner has been tainted by an illegal conflict of interest, which may result in his removal, and the temporary return of Jennings. The Arizona commission is scheduled to hold hearings on the RPS this summer with a decision expected by the fall.

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