Western task force progresses

Work by a task force initiated by the governors of the US western states is in the process of developing a final set of recommendations for policymakers to consider in their drive to add large amounts of clean energy to the western US grid. The wind task force, part of a Western Governors' Association (WGA) initiative to achieve 30,000 MW of clean energy generation in 18 states by 2015, recently completed a process of publicly posting a report and ten preliminary recommendations for public comment.

Comments are now being vetted and the recommendations will be fine tuned for inclusion in a final report the governors will consider at a conference slated for June 2006. Seven other task forces are dealing with similar concerns related to solar, geothermal, biomass, clean coal, energy efficiency, advanced natural gas and transmission. Some of the preliminary recommendations from the wind task force include enacting a long term extension of the federal production tax credit (PTC) and comparable incentives, and encouraging expanded transmission facilities for wind resources.

The wind task force is also charged with examining technology risk and failure, timelines and impacts on wildlife, along with identifying barriers and looking into community owned development. "We tried to stick to actionable items the governors could influence," says Rachel Shimshak of Renewable Northwest Project, the task force's Oregon representative and chair. "And because we met while Congress was considering the federal energy bill, we didn't miss the opportunity to promote, through the governors, things the federal government could do to promote wind, such as the tax credit."

The number of states involved in the initiative is significant, says Shimshak. "Getting them to focus on clean energy -- and 30,000 MW of it -- is a big deal. If we can get the governors some practical recommendations on how to achieve that, it'll be a great thing. I think we're making good progress but there's a road to go yet," she adds.