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United States

Texas passes law for big renewable energy portfolio

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A utility restructuring bill that includes a 2000 MW renewables portfolio standard (RPS) and substantial cuts in power plant emissions was signed into law by Texas Governor George W Bush on June 18. "This is a good bill that will reduce rates, introduce competition and that includes a component I particularly like that will clean up emissions from older plants and result in cleaner air for Texas," said Bush.

The RPS, which sets a minimum standard of about 3% of renewables in the Texas power supply portfolio by 2009, is the largest renewable energy commitment in state restructuring of electricity markets so far-and Texas is the second largest power market in America. Although the bill does not specify which renewable technologies will be used, it is based on generating capacity rather than energy, so it favours wind. The RPS requires construction of 450 MW of renewables capacity by 2003, 500 MW more by 2005, 550 MW in 2007, and 600 MW in 2009.

A coalition of environmental advocates and the wind industry, the Texas Renewable Power Coalition, was instrumental in getting the RPS passed. Led by FPL Energy's Sam Enfield, the group hired three contract lobbyists. "They had really prepared the ground for us," says Enfield. "The situation was ripe."

And this is Texas

"Not only has the environmental community been pleased with the outcome of the bill, but the environmental provisions have somehow become a very prominent feature of the bill," says Mark MacLeod of the Environmental Defense Fund. "Several state legislators have indicated that while the body of the bill has always been economics, the environmental provisions have become the heart. They thought the main reason to vote for the bill was to put the environmental provisions into law. And this is in Texas," adds MacLeod, referring to the state's traditionally conservative, pro-oil ways.

The bill also includes a provision to cap emissions from older power plants that were allowed to meet less stringent standards under the Clean Air Act. MacLeod is optimistic that Texas can serve as a model for other states. "We hope that if the oil and gas state can support renewable energy, so can the rest of the country." Steve Clemmer of the Union of Concerned Scientists agrees: "As Congress considers proposals to deregulate the electricity industry, Texas joins 15 other states in sending a clear message that legislation is needed to capture the enormous benefits of clean energy."

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