CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — State lawmakers discussed whether to require part of the electricity generated in Wyoming to come from renewable sources.
A problem is that wind power and hydroelectric power compete with nonrenewable coal, oil and natural gas, which are all extracted and taxed in Wyoming and in some cases burned in the state's power plants.
Steve Waddington, energy adviser to Gov. Dave Freudenthal, conceded before the Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee on Wednesday that promoting renewable energy would erode Wyoming's tax base.
He said the ideal approach would be to phase in a tax on renewable energy so the fledgling industry is not stunted.
The issue has already been touched on by the Wyoming Energy Commission. Commission co-chairman Marc Strahn said a renewables portfolio standard was one recommendation in the commission's 700-page policy.
"There were quite a few recommendations and issues that were addressed by the Legislature," Strahn said. "But there are four or five issues that can be considered for future study."
Waddington said Freudenthal is interested in a minimum renewable energy requirement. "It would help foster a new industry in the state," he said.
Federal renewable standards were developed during the Clinton administration. While that seems less likely in the Bush administration, Waddington said Wyoming would be better off to have a requirement in place in case the federal government ever revisits the issue.
Gillian Malone, of the Powder River Basin Resource Council, said 12 states had created green energy standards as of last year. Maine tops the list with a 30 percent requirement that has been in place since 2000. At the bottom is Arizona, with a 1.1 percent requirement that is supposed to be reached by 2007.
Sen. Ken Decaria, D-Evanston, said California, which gets energy from Wyoming, has set an ambitious standard of 20 percent.
"A lot of energy is sold there," Decaria said. "Whether we like it or not, we'll have to meet that or they will go somewhere else."
Malone said her group suggests a two-pronged approach in Wyoming by requiring utilities to provide green power and the state government to use a certain percent of green power.
PacifiCorp representative Erin Taylor said her company, which serves about 130,000 people in the state, has included green power as part of its supply portfolio.
"The time is right to study the renewable portfolio standard," she said. "But you have to make sure the goals are attainable and it's a benefit to the customer."
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