Peoria Journal Star

Feb 15, 2001


Environmentalists tout renewable power
  Report suggests ways Midwest can avoid California's energy mistakes

Copley News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. - How can the Midwest avoid the energy crisis California is experiencing?

Environmentalists said Wednesday the answer is to invest more in energy efficiency and to increase renewable energy supplies, including power generated from wind, solar and biomass resources.

Illinois and most other Midwestern states rely primarily on coal and nuclear plants to generate electricity.

''What is happening to California is a wake-up call to the rest of the
country,'' said Howard Learner, executive director of the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center of the Midwest. ''The lesson of California is to plan ahead now by investing in clean energy efficiency. Let's not wait until we have to struggle with crisis management.''

In its report ''Repowering the Midwest: The Clean Energy Development Plan for the Heartland,'' the center calls on states to create special funds to support improvements in energy efficiency and the development of wind, solar and biomass power.

It recommends both federal and state legislation to require energy suppliers to generate a certain percentage of their power from renewable energy sources.

The report also proposes eliminating coal-fired power plants that were
exempted from some of the more stringent Clean Air Act requirements in the past.

In Illinois, the proposals would increase electricity costs by about 1.5
percent in 2010 and by 3.4 percent in 2020, far less than increasing power generation at traditional power plants, the report's authors said.

The goal is to increase renewable energy sources in the Midwest from the current 3 percent of the region's electricity generation to 8 percent by 2010 and 22 percent by 2020.

In comparison, 11 percent of California's electricity is generated from
renewable sources, they said.

During the California deregulation debate, California utilities slashed
their energy efficiency programs and persuaded federal regulators to kill a state program to develop renewable energy sources, said Alan Nogee, director of the United Concerned Scientists' Clean Energy Program, who also worked on the report.

''Gutting those California programs eliminated the equivalent of 3,200
megawatts of planned power plant capacity - enough to serve 3.2 million homes - and contributed to today's power shortages and higher electricity prices,'' Nogee said.

Under the center's plan, Illinois also would see dramatic improvements in air quality, the authors said. Sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain, would be reduced 87 percent; nitrogen oxides, which cause smog, would decrease 82 percent; and carbon dioxide, which causes global warming, would go down 71 percent, the authors said.