The Renewable Movement

The Helena Independent Record reports that Montana is on the verge of joining more than a dozen other states that require that a certain percentage of energy to come from renewable sources. Specifically, a bill that recently passed the state senate “would require that 5 percent of the state’s electricity be produced from renewable sources in 2008, 10 percent by 2010, and 15 percent by 2015.”

I’m pretty excited about this personally — when I lived in Washington, D.C. I used a service to have my residential energy be partially generated by wind. And now, if this bill passes, I’ll be able to do the same here in Helena.

But this legislation is good not just because I like it — its serves three very distinct purposes. First and foremost, its good for foreign and environmental policy. As the newspaper notes, the bill “is a rational response in a country that remains addicted to energy sources that are expensive, polluting, and, in the case of oil, dependent on foreign sources.”

Secondly, it is good for rural economic development, because it would create a new market for wind and solar farms (usually in vast open spaces) and for agricultural products like ethanol. And make no mistake about it — Montana has a lot of wind and corn for ethanol (the state, for instance, is estimated to have the fifth best wind-power resource in the country).


And finally, it promises to bring down electricity rates for consumers. As the newspaper notes, “a study of states with significant wind power turbines in place shows that they consistently lower residential power bills.” Additionally, reducing demand for other traditional sources of energy should lower the prices for those materials.

The bill, of course, is opposed by the energy companies, because they don’t like mandates, no matter how practical they are. But it sure looks good for everyone else.