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Renewable Energy: Toward A Portfolio Standard?

Fortnightly Magazine - August 1998

message. But now, the message will have to be, 'To be greener than the RPS, which is set at X percent of every supplier's electricity generation, go with us.' "

The Renewable Energy Alliance, composed of six green power marketers, was formulating a formal position on the RPS and other restructuring issues at press time. "All of us have a strong interest in renewables development and want to be supportive of that," says O'Neill, whose company is an alliance member. "But at the same time, we want to protect the market for renewables. We don't want the RPS competing or undermining a competitive market."

In Vermont, often perceived as the "greenest" of states, the legislature has yet to adopt an RPS proposal while it wrestles with other restructuring issues. According to Vermont Public Service Board economist Frederick W. Weston, Vermont derives about 15 percent of its electricity supply from renewable sources. An RPS proposal included in a restructuring package approved by the state Senate but put off by the House calls for an increase in "new" renewables to reach 4 percent of sales by 2008. Adoption of the RPS was among the recommendations in the Public Service Board's comprehensive proposal on industry restructuring.

Weston says he didn't like the RPS at first, because he thought it involved too much administration. Now, however, Weston is one of its most vigorous supporters because, he says, he's convinced of the efficiencies inherent in the credit trading system.

"I don't think it solves the problem of how to allocate resources to untried technologies that the market has no interest in," he says. "Markets [aren't good at] getting done most of the things that society needs done. The ultimate hope, however, is that renewable technology will become more competitive."

Lisa Prevost is a freelance writer based in Fairfield, Conn.

Should We Call It Green Power?

The hues and cries.

WHEN it comes to distinguishing "green" power from fossil-fueled energy, the best approach is this: Give consumers enough information to make up their own minds.

 

That's the conclusion of research initiated by the National Council on Competition and the Electric Industry. Based on the results of extensive consumer research, the council recommended a uniform disclosure label that includes price, fuel mix and emissions data.

 

"Labels shouldn't say whether power is green,"says David Moskovitz of the Regulatory Assistance Project, a nonprofit organization that provides education assistance to state regulators and which directed the disclosure research.

 

"Just tell them what it is. The proposed label doesn't even use the word renewables because consumers don't know what renewables are."

 

In a 1,300-person telephone survey, 82 percent of consumers identified environmental factors as very important in choosing an electricity source. Subsequent tests in consumer focus groups showed that when consumers were given fuel type and emissions information about two electricity products, they relied on environmental factors to choose. For example, when the groups were given only fuel-mix information, they generally selected the product with less coal and more gas and renewables. When they then were shown emission information