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Reports Indicate Bright Future for Renewables

The green movement seems to have the blues lately. Many advocates and experts are still reeling over disappointment with the outcome in Copenhagen. Reports indicate climate change ranks far below reality TV on Americans’ priority lists.

Regardless, the green movement marches forward – at least when it comes to renewable energy. Reports from the end of last year and the beginning of 2010 actually illustrate a promising picture.

Last October, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance released an updated report that examines a state-by-state commercial renewable electricity potential. According to Environmental Leader, 36 states with either renewable energy goals or renewable energy mandates could meet them by relying on in-state renewable fuels. The report also finds 23 states could be self-sufficient in electricity from in-state renewables, and another seven states could generate 75 percent of their electricity from homegrown fuels. The study finds new technologies like smart grids, electric vehicles, distributed storage and rooftop solar will have a major impact at the local level. As an example, the integration of millions of electric vehicles into the grid will change the context for energy planning by creating, for the first time, abundant storage for electricity, according to the report.

Last month, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) released a preliminary report (the full version is due in March) indicated renewable fuels accounted for nine percent of all energy consumption in 2008. However, the report also projects that share to grow to 17 percent by 2035. Why? The extension of key federal tax credits and the loan guarantee program in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which greatly increases renewable generation relative to the projections in earlier outlooks. According to the report, additional growth is also supported by the many state requirements for renewable generation.

Clearly, the government is driving the market for renewable energy and has, in fact, mandated a percentage of energy derived from renewable resources by 2020. It’s already boosting business for companies such as Energy Xtreme, an NSI client that provides large-scale storage products and other modern energy solutions.

While it’s easy to feel the that progress toward a greener future has come up against the proverbial yellow traffic light, it’s important to remember how far we’ve come. As the EIA report stated, we saw vigorous and far-reaching debate about the scale of future energy systems in 2009. I believe we’ve arrived at a point where there is real potential for the centralized renewable energy future, which will be characterized by greater federal involvement in planning and local and state-based strategies. The report, as the Executive Summary indicates, truly does provide compelling evidence that if states retain their authority, energy self-reliance is within their grasp.

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