Renewable Momentum Goes West!!!

Geothermal Stocks

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted April 19, 2006

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Oh, how it pains me to fall back on such an obvious and overused proverb. But during last week's Power Gen Renewable Energy & Fuels conference, this was a declaration that was shared by a number of speakers.

It's no secret that the Energy Policy Act, with all its golden tax credits and preemptive election time safety nets, was an important step towards allowing renewable energy markets to become more competitive. And the extension of these tax credits will certainly allow the industry to get more bang for its subsidized buck - as a limited two-year window does come up a bit short.

In any event, these subsidies do play an integral role in the advancement of renewable energy technology. But to ensure the longevity and sustainability of the industry, they should not serve as just one more perpetual burden for tax payers either.

Fortunately, most of the industry leaders I spoke with in Vegas last week seemed extremely focused on allowing the market to push renewables to a competitive level - not just handouts.

As a renewable energy investor, this is definitely reassuring news. Of course in 2006, many state renewable energy requirements are now making it much easier for this to happen too.

Renewable Momentum Goes West!!!

As we've discussed in the past, state-based initiatives are proving to be the real meat and potatoes for renewables. And this trend is continuing to pick up steam.

I probably met with just as many state lawmakers as I did with actual renewable energy companies last week. I'm telling you - these guys are desperate to secure stronger, regional energy infrastructures to cushion them from high oil prices and maxed out grids.

In fact, the Western Governor's Association (WGA), which serves the governors of 18 states, has recently orchestrated one of the most strategic and aggressive renewable energy initiatives we've seen yet.

The WGA's, Clean and Diversified Energy Advisory Committee (CDEAC), which was launched in 2004, is now in the process of considering a number of options for bringing 30,000 MW of clean energy online by 2015 and increasing energy efficiency by 20 percent by 2020.

In January, the CDEAC released several task force reports that examined the feasibility of options for reaching its goals.

Here's some of what they found:
  • Biomass

    As an energy resource, biomass has the potential to supply 15,000 MW of electricity to the Western states by 2015. At a production cost of $0.08 per kWh, 10,000 MW could be provided. Environmental benefits of biomass include reduced risks of destructive wildfires, reduced consumption of landfill capacity and air quality benefits due to reductions in open burning of agricultural and forest residues.

  • Geothermal

    The western states share a capacity of nearly 13,000 MW of geothermal energy that can be developed on specific sites within a reasonable time frame. Of these, 5,600 megawatts are considered by the geothermal industry to be viable for commercial development within the next ten years. * As a side note, I suggest keeping your eyes peeled for any publicly-traded geothermal companies operating in Nevada. Nevada maintains the largest geothermal capacity in the U.S.*

  • Solar

    It's projected that as much as 8,000 MW of capacity could be installed with a combination of distributed solar electricity systems and central concentrating solar power (CSP) plants by 2015; and an additional 2,000 MW of solar thermal systems could be installed within the same timeframe. At that point, the cost of electricity from future CSP plants should be on par with that from plants burning natural gas, and distributed systems should have declined in price to the point that they should be able to produce electricity below retail utility rates in most parts of the West.

  • Wind

    The potential wind resources in the WGA footprint are on the order of 250,000 MW available at under $60/MWh delivered to the existing transmission network or load centers. Existing state policies and utility resource plans could lead to 5,000 MW to 9,000 MW of wind by 2015. *Though it should be noted that these figures are not set in stone, as any significant near-, mid-, and long-term implementation issues related to transmission, utility incentives and grid integration still need attention.*

  • Energy Efficiency

    Increasing energy efficiency is the cleanest, cheapest, least risky and least controversial energy resource. Reports on 'best practice' energy efficiency efforts analyzed the impacts of current energy efficiency policies and programs. It was found that it is feasible to reduce electricity use by 20 percent from projected levels in 2020, and do so cost effectively, through full deployment of these 'best practice' policies and programs.
On June 11 - 13, the CDEAC will consider the recommendations based on the task force reports when they hold their annual meeting.

You can check for updates on this meeting at Green Chip Stocks.

Garden State Mandates

New initiatives are breaking ground on the East Coast too.

Last week, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities voted to expand the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by extending the existing goals out to 2020.

Under the new regulations, 20 percent of New Jersey's electricity must come from renewable sources by 2020. The new regulations include a 2-percent 'set-aside' for solar too. This will require approximately 1500 MW.

New Jersey's original RPS was launched in 1999 - right after deregulation. At that time, the RPS was set at 4 percent to be reached by 2012.

This latest plan also holds much potential for new wind power developments and biomass incinerators. Moreover, some are now predicting that the new regulations will also drive the commercial deployment of marine power projects.

To find out more about the companies that are taking advantage of these initiatives and programs, visit our free archives section here.

Until next time...

Jeff Siegel
Managing Editor, Green Chip Stocks