Colorado solar energy leaders discuss national policies

 Energy use and policy consistently rank among the top national concerns for congress to consider. In this legislative session, most believe a national energy policy is unlikely.

Carolyn McIntosh, a lawyer with Patton Boggs who does a lot of energy work on Capital Hill, told a group gathered to discuss the potential for a feed-in-tariff program in Colorado last week that the outlook for comprehensive legislation is dim.

“A federal mandate is highly unlikely at this point,” McIntosh said. “But there is evidence of bipartisan progress.”

She said Senator Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., has introduced legislation in the past and may brings something forward again to promote clean energy legislation this year.

She said that legislation mandating traditional renewable energy sources like solar photovoltaics and wind generation is very unlikely.

“It’s more likely we would see a clean electric portfolio standard with two tiers,” McIntosh said. “There would be more money, more subsidies for the first tier, which would be traditional clean energy sources like wind and solar and less money, but still some incentive for cleaner power like nuclear, biomass, carbon sequestration and natural gas.”

There is more bipartisan support for a policy like that, which allows room for some of the old technologies and fossil fuels to stick around.

Chris Stimpson, executive campaigner for Solar Nation, was in the audience and cautioned against a clean electric portfolio standard.

“The problem with a clean electric standard is nuclear,” Stimpson said. “Nuclear is a big balloon pushing us into the corner.”

He cited a University of North Carolina study indicating that solar energy production is currently cheaper than nuclear and will only continue to get cheaper in coming years as technology advances and becomes more common.

“I’m biased, but solar is a much better alternative,” he said.

While it would not be the feather in the cap of those who promote traditional clean energy sources, McIntosh said, it would be an improvement over the current industry standard.

McIntosh said any national policy would likely start with a 15-percent mandate.

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Image courtesy of Sun Powered Solar Systems