Hopeful Developments in Colorado and Texas
The cost of wind power has now fallen dramatically from about 14 cents per kilowatt-hour in 1986 to under 5 cents per kilowatt hour, a cent or so above what Public Service Company of New Mexico (New Mexico's largest private electricity utility) reports to be the cost of its coal-fired electricity. Moreover, recent efforts in Colorado (www.cogreenpower.org/Grssroot.htm) show that grass roots efforts can succeed in bringing renewable wind power to the consumer, even in the face of significant opposition at the state regulatory level. After efforts to achieve a renewables mandate from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission failed, the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies (www.lawfund.org) teamed up with Public Service Company of Colorado in a non-adversarial effort to offer "Green-pricing" for renewables-that is, customers could opt to pay slightly more on their utility bills (2.5 cents per kWh) for wind power. The program has been remarkably successful-about 20,500 homes and businesses have signed up so far, and at least 10,000 are now receiving their renewable energy. It is instructive to note the role of the nonprofit in this case: The Land and Water Fund provided the public education and credibility needed to attract customers, and also negotiated a reasonably low price, both of which were essential to the success of the program (www.repp.org/articles/resRpt08/part1.html).
To our southeast, in an equally exciting development, the Texas Public Regulatory Commission has adopted a ruling requiring that 2000 megawatts of renewables be added to the Texas's energy portfolio. This is about 90% of New Mexico's total draw! (about 2200 megawatts). In the commissions ruling, is was explicitly stated that "The Legislature's commitment to development of the state's abundant renewable resources is derived from the preferences expressed by Texas consumers in favor of renewable power." This demonstrates the effectiveness of citizen action! Full text of the ruling can be found on the Texas PUC website. (www.puc.state.tx.us/rules/rulemake/20944/25.173.doc)