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In the field: National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO’s) 2016 Central Region Meeting

June 22, 2016 by Alexandra Aznar

The central region is a windy corridor of the U.S.; wind resource potential ranks high compared to the rest of the country. As a result, wind deployment in the region has outpaced that of other renewable energy resources. But might solar energy be piquing the interest of central region policymakers? I kept an ear out for answers to that question during the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO’s) 2016 Central Region Meeting, June 7-8 in Omaha, Nebraska. In addition to their annual meeting and energy outlook conferences, STAT Network partner NASEO organizes regional meetings (see Figure 1 for regions) where members can share their own state and regional energy issues and meet regional stakeholders in a more intimate setting.

Figure 1. NASEO Regions

Figure 1-NASEO regions

Source: http://www.naseo.org/naseo-regions

I shared information and resources on promoting renewable electricity generation, including STAT Network technical assistance opportunities, as well as technical assistance offerings of other DOE funded programs (e.g. WindExchange, Clean Cities, and SolSmart). State energy officials can tap into these programs to help answer their myriad energy questions. More importantly, I learned about critical energy issues the region faces at the moment from those deep in the trenches of state energy policy. Below are some highlights:

  • Oil and natural gas producing states (e.g. Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Wyoming) are getting hit hard by a drop in oil and natural gas prices, prompting substantial budget cuts across state agencies. State energy offices are not immune from these cuts and are looking for ways to maximize their impact despite lean times.
  • Renewable energy and energy efficiency finance is always a tough nut to crack for state governments. Responding to the demand for innovative ways to finance clean energy improvements, both Colorado and Nebraska recently passed property assessed clean energy (PACE) enabling legislation. PACE is a financing mechanism that allows private property owners to access public or private financing for clean energy investments that are paid back over time via property taxes (Figure 2).

Figure 2. The Process of PACE

Figure 2-The Process of PACE

Source: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2014/06/f16/ch12_commercial_pace_all.pdf

  • Colorado’s Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy Program (C-PACE) targets commercial and industrial business owners. Nebraska Governor Ricketts approved LB 1012, the Property Assessed Clean Energy Act, which enables commercial and residential PACE programs. Other central region states (except for Louisiana whose state legislature is trying to get rid of its PACE legislation) expressed interest in PACE, but many are hesitant to move forward with residential PACE because of consumer protection concerns.
  • Solar development is nascent in Nebraska and North Dakota, but what has been developed is community solar. Nebraska’s Lincoln Electric System is developing a 5 MW community solar project and North Dakota’s Cass County Electric Cooperative recently broke ground on a 102 kW community solar array.
  • Lastly, the Supreme Court’s stay of the Clean Power Plan in February has left states in regulatory limbo. Meanwhile, more and more analyses are coming out finding that state electricity systems are getting cleaner on their own. Joining the chorus is a new Brattle Group report asserting that the ERCOT grid in Texas will easily meet proposed Clean Power Plan targets for CO2 emissions if current market trends (i.e. coal retirements, cheap natural gas, energy efficiency, and increasing wind and solar deployment) continue.

So as you can see, a lot is happening in the central corridor. The STAT Network will continue to track it all and keep you up to date. Also, keep an eye out for our highlights from NASEO’s upcoming annual conference in September.

Tags: Policy