Friday, April 17, 2009

As Gainesville goes...

Renewable energy may not save us all, or even lead the nation out of our economic doldrums; it may not even be viable for a rural northeastern state like Maine. It's worth considering, however.

The more I read about alternative energy, the more I realize that it comes down to policy. And given that I'm spending far too much time of late, seeing Maine's policymakers up close, it's making me concerned that once again, we'll be left behind to places like Florida, not exactly the world's most forward-thinking state.

A good article on Gainesville, Florida, from the Washington Monthly.

Think policy doesn't matter? Well think again.

Why is the renewable energy market in Gainesville booming while it’s collapsing elsewhere in the country? The answer boils down to policy. In early February, the city became the first in the nation to adopt a "feed-in tariff"—a clunky and un-descriptive name for a bold incentive to foster renewable energy. Under this system, the local power company is required to buy renewable energy from independent producers, no matter how small, at rates slightly higher than the average cost of production. This means anyone with a cluster of solar cells on their roof can sell the power they produce at a profit. The costs of the program are passed on to ratepayers, who see a small rise in their electric bills (in Gainesville the annual increase is capped at 1 percent). While rate hikes are seldom popular, the community has rallied behind this policy, because unlike big power plant construction—the costs of which are also passed on to the public—everyone has the opportunity to profit, either by investing themselves or by tapping into the groundswell of economic activity the incentive creates.

Check out the reference to "feed-in tariff," just like LD 1450/HP 1006, in Maine, Herb Adam's bill.

Read the rest of "The Rooftop Revolution" here.

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