State governments in the U.S. have produced an intense but sometimes contradictory flurry of legislative action on renewable energy over the last three months, with several seeking to accelerate the transition off oil, gas, and coal while others align with the fossil lobby.
“State politicians have introduced measures to dramatically expand renewable electric power in nearly a dozen states in the first three months of 2017, some as ambitious as aiming to run entirely on renewables within a few decades,” InsideClimate News reports. “Some would launch smaller-scale community solar ventures, like a pilot in Virginia; others would add tax breaks for solar users in South Carolina and Florida.”
But on the other side of the ledger, “there are proposals to end the popular solar financial arrangement known as net metering in Indiana, Missouri, and elsewhere,” writes reporter Zahra Hirji. “There are moves afoot to roll back statewide clean energy targets in North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Ohio. There was even a bill to effectively outlaw utility-scale wind and solar in Wyoming, and a defiant measure seeking a two-year moratorium on new wind projects in North Dakota.”
Those initiatives are “less a new assault inspired by the Republican-led backlash against green energy under way in Washington,” Hirji notes, more a continuation of long-standing anti-clean energy campaigns by the likes of the fossil- and Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Americans for Prosperity, and the Heartland Institute.
But on balance, clean energy hawks are confident about state-level action. “That’s because they are seeing examples of bipartisan collaboration for clean energy and polls showing widespread support for cutting emissions from the electric grid,” ICN notes. “And there is widespread business support for a cleaner energy marketplace and for the Paris climate agreement generally.”
“I would say that bills like the ones in Wyoming and North Dakota that are trying to fight wind are more the outlier,” J.R. Tolbert, vice president of state policy at Advanced Energy Economy, told Hirji. “The policy debate is actually a healthy debate that’s going on across the country right now.”
As that conversation unfolds, ICN notes that the choices made and directions set are “not always driven by which party is in power. Other factors like local geography, resources, politics, legal codes, and competing public interests complicate the picture.”