The Return of Wind Turbines and Solar Cells ; after a Decade of Sluggishness, Renewable Energy Gets a Second Wind as States Promote Fossil-Fuel Alternatives
Kris Axtman, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
If you think "green power" went the way of "flower power," think again. Alternative energy is making a sudden comeback.
After a decade-long lapse in interest and funding, efforts to find alternatives to fossil-fuel energy have reignited from Massachusetts to California. But unlike years past, the major impetus is not from Capitol Hill, but rather from individual states.
In fact, states' commitments to wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass power is up 40 percent from 1997 levels, with 22 states now offering customers a green-power choice. That's akin to taking 3.4 million cars off the road, says the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Mass., which has issued a survey of state support.
In fact, at $381 million, Massachusetts is second only to California in the money it plans to invest in renewable-energy projects. The list of states making large commitments keeps growing. Last week, for instance, Arizona become one of the first states to require its utility companies to produce a percentage of their electricity from solar power.
"This surge of interest is an important step in the right direction," says Alan Nogee, energy director with the Union of Concerned Scientists. "These actions won't solve all our energy problems, but they'll help ensure that the industry keeps growing and that prices keep dropping."
Some of the ways states are promoting green power include:
*Renewable-electricity standards. Twelve states have set standards for utility companies regarding how much of their power sales must come from renewables.
*Renewable-electricity funds. Thirteen states have established funds for the development of renewables. Combined, they will collect an estimated $2 billion by 2012.
*Net metering. Thirty states have adopted policies to make it easier and more affordable for customers to generate their own power from renewable-energy systems.
*Disclosure of fuels and emissions. Fifteen states require electricity providers to disclose on utility bills the environmental impacts of their products.
Only three states, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, have adopted all four policies. By contrast, 20 states don't have even one.
The road to alternative energy has been a rocky one. Since the oil crisis of the mid-1970s, policymakers and industry officials have argued over how best to reduce America's dependence on fossil fuels. …